Light Shows: Marco Breuer’s Photographs at Yossi Milo Gallery Charm and Confound
Marco Breuer has spent his career working out new ways to abuse photos materials. He has burned, scraped, sanded, and folded light-sensitive paper, marking it with unorthodox tools, including shotguns and record players, as he stakes out territory between photography, drawing, and printmaking. In this freewheeling show at Yossi Milo, Breuer trades his recent dark grids for two-tone works featuring wobbly organic shapes and expanses of white, pushing and pulling negative space to suggest maps or outlines of the human body.
The images, which range in size up to 30 by 24 inches, appear pure and sterile from a distance. But up close the surface of the abraded chromogenic paper shows signs of human touch and contains clues to Breuer’s actions on it. The palette of black, orange, teal, and deep blue sometimes suggest sky or water, but is actually the result of variations in the amount of light each sheet of paper was exposed to before being chemically fixed. Faint scratches on the white sections trace where Breuer has removed the paper’s top layers. Other surfaces are flecked with tiny irregular impressions, the result of the embossing process that gives the paper a high gloss. In several, a thin orange ribbon runs like a shadow along the border between white and black forms, marking where the top of the emulsion was only partially removed.
Also on view are two vitrines filled with small folders, each holding a preliminary sketch or small-scale exercise. Among these are several series made from the pages of art auction catalogues. In one, Breuer has abraded pages reproducing Alexander Calder mobiles, removing ink to leave only the sculptures’ supports. In another, a silhouette of Breuer’s own headless body seems to leap in front of artworks, dividing a page depicting an Egon Schiele nude into four quadrants, a shape that is echoed in the larger wall-hung works.
Breuer’s own body makes an appearance in a series of Polaroids on view in the gallery and collected in a newsprint booklet that viewers can take home. In them, a black cloth whips through the air against a white background, creating fluid, graphic shapes that are frozen by the camera. In a few, we see Breuer’s hand and wrist—one of the many traces of his body in this ongoing exploration of material and form.