Chris Kennedy

“A Man and His Dog Out for Air: The Films of Robert Breer,” April 1, 2017

A Man and His Dog Out for Air: The Films of Robert Breer

Robert Breer (1926–2011) was an artist, sculptor and filmmaker whose animation style was as carefree as it was rigorous. Composed on thousands of 4 x 6 index cards, his films were drawings in their most dynamic forms, a cascade of single images mixed in with gestural, flowing line-work. Born in Detroit to the designer of the Chrysler Airflow, Breer moved quickly from engineering into art, leading to a decade-long stay in postwar Paris. There, he took up abstract painting before being seduced by the possibilities of cinema. Returning to the US, he dove into the Pop Art scene, befriending artists like Claes Oldenburg (who starred in one of his films) and Robert Rauschenberg. (Breer’s best-known contributions to the visual arts are the slow-moving “Floats” that premiered in the Pepsi pavilion of Osaka Expo ’70 and became a common visual trope in his films of that period.)

When making his films, Breer would work intuitively, allowing his stream of consciousness to direct the visual flow. Elements from real life that provided initial inspiration would be photographed, redrawn, and abstracted into reiterative pictorial movement. The spontaneity of his hand-drawn line created an economic, yet humourous depiction of the world as he saw it: constantly in flux, always moving, vivid and frenetic.

A Man and His Dog Out for Air dir. Robert Breer | USA/France 1957 | 3 min. 16mm
Recreation dir. Robert Breer | USA/France 1957 | 2 min. 16mm
Robert Breer at Home dir. Jennifer L. Burford | France 1992 | 7 min. 16mm
Gulls and Buoys dir. Robert Breer | USA 1972 | 6 min. 16mm
70 dir. Robert Breer | USA 1970 | 4.5 min. 16mm
69 dir. Robert Breer | USA 1968 | 5 min. 16mm
Fuji dir. Robert Breer | USA 1973 | 9 min. 16mm
LMNO dir. Robert Breer | USA 1978 | 10 min. 16mm
Swiss Army Knife with Rats and Pigeons dir. Robert Breer | USA 1980 | 7 min. 16mm
Trial Balloons dir. Robert Breer | USA 1982 | 6 min. 16mm
What Goes Up dir. Robert Breer | USA 2003 | 5 min. 16mm