Lars Breuers show looked elegant. But this elegance was only an illusion. An illusion created deliberately, often laboriously. For example in Ohne Titel (Dolmabahçe) (Untitled, Dolmabahçe, 2010), Breuer installed a console made of cheap plastic above a painting. He purchased the console in a hardware store and then covered it with coat after coat of white paint until it looked like a piece of old plasterwork. On the painting, theres a huge flower rendered photorealistically in oil. That the picture was painted in black and white felt somewhat strange since most works of photorealism are radiantly colourful. This painting and the console made to look precious and old were hung on a wall painted over with black emulsion. The paint had been applied, stroke by stroke, with a broad brush so the diagonally superimposed strokes were clearly visible a gesture that recalls Abstract Expressionism.
What intially appeared as an elegant combination of individual elements the console, the painting, the black background suddenly became a challenge to the stylistic certainties of Modernism: In terms of style, nothing fits together here. What was the point of combining the rococo-like console, the pop-esque painting that isnt really pop and the sweeping brushstrokes on the wall? What links them, what separates them?
And that wasnt all. This installation, which breaks the rules of classic modern taste, was juxtaposed with three rows of photocopies of photographs, hung one above the other in cheap glass frames. While this series Ohne Titel (Untitled, 2011) may allude to the conceptual aesthetic of the 1970s, the photographs themselves are more topical. They show snapped spruce trees, which Breuer photographed over a three-year period in the forests of Germanys Hochsauerland region. The theme of environmental destruction and the aesthetics of politically engaged art from the 1970s met in a stylistic car crash.
Breuer together with Sebastian Freytag, Guido Münch and Jan Kämmerling co-founded KONSORTIUM in 2004. Since then, the group has run an exhibition space in Dusseldorf where they deliberately counteract what they call the context morass of the 1990s initially by means of abstract art. People had to turn up every time, and every time there were only abstract pictures, Breuer explained. Our plan was to brutally hammer the message home. Today, their engagement with the conventions of Modernism has expanded to include non-abstract currents.
Breuer took a similar approach in the Cologne show where he also exhibited a series of paintings based on decorative floral motifs from classical antiquity, but painted or spray-painted in a way that makes them appear abstract some strictly minimalist, some more pop-esque. This series gave the exhibition its title Das Reich der Flora (Empire of Flora, 2011). Breuer added the words Esprit Historique (Historical Spirit) a variation on the title of mathematician Blaise Pascals famous treatise De lesprit géométrique (Of the Geometrical Spirit, 1658) in subtle and barely legible typography on the back wall of the gallery. The artist is playful but not necessarily ironic; he is smart, formally ingenious and persuasive in his mission to deceive in order to clarify.
Translated by Nicholas Grindell