Breuer has been making abstract photographs since the early 1990s. However, in contrast to Aaron Siskind, whose black-and-white photographs of walls were linked to the gestural paintings of the Abstract Expressionists, particularly those of his friend Franz Kline, Breuer works with sheets of chromogenic paper, which, as the label for “Untitled (C-1773)” (2016) informs us, has been “exposed/ embossed/ scraped.” Ordinarily when it comes to photographs, we tend to look at the image and ignore the surface. […] Conventional photographs might be able to halt time and preserve a particular moment, but Breuer is having no part of it. His photographs are — as Rosenberg would say — the aftermath of an event.
excerpt from: After the Storm, and Before, by John Yau @ Hyperallergic
excerpts from a conversation between Vanessa Kauffman and Marco Breuer, from 2016. More @ www.artjournal.collegeart.org
Kauffman: Your work is full of gesture, which removes it from any specific place but also gives it intimacy. The marks in your images could represent any moment, any place.
Breuer: The work has become gestural over time. I used to work with self-recording phenomena, photograms, and that was tied to objects. In these current projects, the work is much more about line and color. When you’re starting out after school, you’re trying to claim some space for yourself, and you’re trying to define who you are as an artist. If you have a contrarian personality, like I do, you do it by deciding who you’re not. But that’s not a sustainable mode—you can’t work in opposition for thirty years. Eventually you realize it doesn’t matter what other people do—what matters is what you do and the choices you make—and you have to own those choices. For me, that meant moving away from more automatic or chance-driven work to making concrete decisions: to put a certain type of line in a certain place because that’s what I want to do.
Kauffman: You’ve talked a lot about collaborations with writers. Is language an important aspect of your work, or an entry point into it, for you?
Breuer: As an artist, you write about your work on a regular basis, and you work on press releases and other texts, so language is a necessary crutch. But it’s certainly not how I get into the work. I do have a complicated relationship with language because English is not my first language. Halfway through my life I switched from German to English, which has changed things. There are different cultural concepts that can be expressed in certain languages, and you quickly become aware of them when you start speaking another language. At this point, I can barely talk about my work in German anymore because I don’t have the conceptual vocabulary — I developed it in English. I speak German, just not that particular slice of it.
Kauffman: The experience of the work can too easily become about the words and the description of it. Your work has a visual vernacular, but that vernacular is elusive in a delightful way—you see the impulses of a language, but there is not a particular semiotics.
Breuer: Every time you do attach words to artwork, you limit it. Obviously when visual work is written about, everyone’s looking for a hook—one sentence that describes what the work is about. I’ve always thought that’s a problem. If you can describe someone’s work in one sentence, there’s not enough happening. I try to point this out when I talk about the work. I make it clear that the verbal discussion is a secondary stage, and what we should be doing is looking at the work. When reproductions are involved—whether they are projections, slides, or reproductions in a book—there is loss in that translation too. I try to play this up, rather than pretend it’s not
there. The ideal scenario is somebody encountering your work without preconceived notions in the original piece, seeing all the surface violations and the actual marks on the paper. The reality is that much of the work is consumed online, encountered either in some dematerialized form, or described in words, and none of these ways are ideal.
I gave a lecture at California College of the Arts on April 21, 2016, and the question of language is a big question I consider every time I speak. My work is not based in language, but I prepare to talk about my work for an hour. Lectures are also an opportunity to think about different aspects of your. I built this lecture in five different loops. The reason that I chose the loop is that I don’t believe in linear progression—I always return to things I’ve done before, or some variation of them. There’s a circular element in the forward motion of everything.