Although he would surely mock the idea with a witty pun, Robert Breer “is” the father of American experimental animation. You really can't call him the Anti-Disney, or the Yankee McLaren, or the most consistently inventive and entertaining avant-garde filmmaker, or even the most productive (over 40 films since 1952), because these descriptions are too confining. I'll settle for “genius” and let it go at that. His first silent experiments, shot on 16 mm when he was still seriously engaged as a painter in Paris, are today as fresh and challenging as his most recent piece, What Goes Up (2003).

During the intervening half-century Bob has provocatively opened our eyes to the nature of film, drawing, perception, rhythm, color, and by reduction and distillation. With a casual attitude toward technology, he has reminded us that art can be light, personal and transcend the restrictions of genre. In addition to film, Breer has created flipbooks, mutoscopes, kinetic sculpture and undefinable animational contraptions.

I have always thought of Bob as achieving with animation what both Duchamp and Pollack did with painting: attitude and action. He can make a scribbled crayon stroke dance or a hammer bang into a reclining nude.

Active in “underground film” of the 50's, Pop Happenings of the 60's, and so many permutations of vanguard art since, Breer has simply worked at what he does best, taught (Cooper Union), and influenced a generation who sees animation as part of a larger art continuum.

George Griffin
Jan. 2004

Thursday, September 23, 7:00 pm (National Gallery)
Saturday, September 25, 9:00 pm (National Gallery)
Running time: 66:05 mins.
Robert Breer

Swiss Army Knife with 
Rats and Pigeons (1980)

Swiss Army Knife with 
Rats and Pigeons (1980)
Form Phases IV [1954] Robert Breer / USA / Colour / Silent / 3:30
Recreation [1956] Robert Breer / USA / Colour / Sound / 2:00
A Man and His Dog Out for Air [1957] Robert Breer / USA / Black & White / Sound / 3:00
Blazes [1961] Robert Breer / USA / Colour / Sound / 3:00
69 [1969] Robert Breer / USA / Colour / Sound / 5:00
70 [1970] Robert Breer / USA / Colour / Sound / 4:25
Fist Fight [1964] Robert Breer / USA / Colour / 8:35
LMNO [1978] Robert Breer / USA / Colour / 10:00
Swiss Army Knife with Rats and Pigeons [1980] Robert Breer / USA / Colour / 6:00
Bang! [1986] Robert Breer / USA / Colour / 8:00
Blue Monday [1988] Robert Breer & William Wegman / USA / Colour / 7:29
What Goes Up [2003] Robert Breer / USA / Colour / 4:46