Marco Breuer (b. 1966; Landshut, Germany) circumvents the conventions of photography by foregoing the use of camera, film and negative in favor of directly interacting with material and process. Breuer coaxes a vivid range of colors and textures from his materials by subjecting photographic paper to various forms of manipulation by hand, including burning, folding, embossing, scratching, sanding and scraping the surface, often down to the white of the paper. The results of his investigations are abstract, one-of-a-kind photographs that record their own evolution through an accumulation of physical marks.
The forms that appear on the surfaces of Breuer's paper are as diverse and varied as his methods. Some are minimal and free-flowing, like those from his Silent Speed series, which hover between total abstraction and familiar silhouettes, confusing the boundaries between negative and positive space. These works result from a process of subtraction, by which Breuer physically removes portions of the photographic paper's chemical to reveal the raw substrate of the paper. Other works are maximal and bursting with energetic linear forms, revealing the tonal diversity of photographic paper and the material richness contained within layers of chemical emulsion. Breuer works and re-works these pieces over the course of days, simultaneously destroying his material and creating a new artwork in the process. At every step along the way, the piece is subjected to a complete reevaluation. Each added layer of destruction constitutes an erasure as well as a re-inscription. Like a palimpsest, the work points both forward and backward in time-a sum of erasures that bears traces from the past, yet creates space and sites for new considerations.
Work by Marco Breuer is held by several institutional collections, including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany; and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL, among many others. The artist has presented a great number of solo exhibitions across the globe, including at the de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA; Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Germany; and Hänel Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa. The artist has been featured in group shows at the George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY; Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA, among others. Breuer is the inaugural recipient of the Larry Sultan Photography Award presented by Headlands Center for the Arts, California College of the Arts, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Pier 24 Photography. His monographs include Early Recordings (Aperture, 2007), SMTWTFS (Roth Horowitz, LLC, 2002) and Marco Breuer: Col•or (Black Dog Publishing, 2014). Breuer currently lives and works in upstate New York.