Moving from Chelsea to the LES, Danziger Gallery Unearths a Striking Photo Series from the 1970s
In the early 1970s, Hans Breder took a series of photographs in lyrically liminal places—a shoreline, a rooftop, a shadow-edged plaza. His female subjects are seemingly fragmented and disfigured; they are missing—or gaining—heads, torsos, legs, and arms. Each work presents a visual riddle: As the model’s body twists into strange positions, a mirror is propped up to reveal new ways of seeing the female form, like portals to a different view.
Intrigued, the photography dealer James Danziger recently contacted Breder, who was little known at the time. In Breder’s home attic, Danziger found boxes of photographs. From those photographs came “Body/Sculptures,” the inaugural show at Danziger Gallery’s new location in New York’s Lower East Side (the gallery spent the last 10 years in Chelsea).
German-born Breder is otherwise best-known for founding the Intermedia and Video Art Program at the University of Iowa, a revolutionary program that took a multimedia approach to the study of art. (Among the program’s most prolific alumni is Ana Mendieta, with whom Breder collaborated and lived for 10 years; she appears in several photos in the series.) Now 80, Breder still embraces other ways of looking at the world. “I never thought of myself as a photographer,” he has said.
Indeed, his “Body/Sculptures” work exists in this intermedia realm, somewhere between photography, sculpture, and performance. For the moments captured in exposed, natural environments, Breder achieves a bold contrast of tones as the limbs bend, torque, and unfurl outward like a flower. In another photo, this one indoors, chiasmatic limbs are celebrated as lovely, sculptural parts. Fittingly, they rest atop an artist’s desk, as if their sculptor is still at work.
“Hans Breder” is on view at Danziger Gallery, New York, Feb. 29–Apr. 2, 2016.