Sketching out the real art from the process

By Matt Artz Daily Planet Staff
Saturday April 20, 2002

The exhibition, on display at Traywick Gallery through May 4, marks new ground for a process artist who has documented the marginal events of everyday life, not through the lens of the camera, but via the unlocked complexity of photographic paper.  

Working primarily with black and white paper, the processes Breuer has engineered for composing his “photographic sketches” are remarkable both for their simplicity and their harshness.In the darkroom, he often exposes his paper to an array of items.Milk, Windex, bread, mold, and other objects adopted from familiar routines are recorded on to the paper.  

But Breuer has learned that he can make paper react to stimuli other than light.In different works he subjects the paper to heat guns, drills, irons, knives, and sanders.These devices enable Breuer to manipulate the paper’s emulsion, drawing color from black and white paper and generating a final image whose design is as interesting as its process.  

For his current exhibition at the Traywick, Breuer employs similar processes, but expands his repertoire to include color photographic paper and untreated drawing paper.The new mediums allow Breuer to revisit past methods to create new designs in different settings.  

“It is a challenge to maintain the necessary amount of surprise,” said Breuer who has worked in this realm of photography for over ten years.“As you get to know your material intimately the responses become more predictable.Working with different recording devices and different formats is a way to keep the unknown in the process.”  

Breuer executed two works at the gallery.In both, his processes not only generated an intriguing image on the paper, but also scarred adjacent gallery walls.  

In “Untitled, Zapped” Breuer connected two live wires plugged into an outlet on the gallery’s wall, and then touched them to the drawing paper on the wall, creating a sketch that looks like a meteor zigzagging its way through space.“I have worked with electricity for quite a while, but photographic paper has always been too fast to record the results properly,” said Breuer.  

The sketches exude a mysterious quality.Breuer chooses to name all of his work “Untitled”, but offers the observer a written clue as to how the sketch was created. 

“I don’t want to direct the viewer too much,” said Breuer.“There is no right way or wrong way to see a piece.”  

“Untitled,(C-38) chromogenic paper, sanded” at first glance looks like a photograph of a star-filled sky.But on closer inspection, the pellets of light layered on the negative’s surface are so fuzzy that the image best resembles what might be seen when one stares directly into cupped hands placed directly over one’s eyes.  

To achieve this affect, Breuer used sand paper to abrade the surface of the chromogenic paper and then developed the picture as a negative.  

Breuer’s art displays a softness and elaborate richness that belie its origins.Not surprisingly, he acknowledges that he makes aesthetic choices in his work.“I consider much of my work a walk a long this line: (between) the desire to control the outcome and the realization that these impulses need to be held in check.”