Form Phases #4, 1954

The opening image of Robert Breer’s Form Phases #4 is that of two-strip red and white color panels, a seemingly tongue-in-cheek image that visually presages the film’s fusion of two-dimensional animation and early color-process motion picture, as a sliver of white line breaks the bounds of the color border and continues to transect unimpededly (and organically) through geometric blocks of color before morphing into more complex shapes – a triangle, then square, then trapezoid, before developing curvature and pivoting into a rhombic, kite-like formation, then floating through the frame and attaching to other shapes to create more complex, composite (but elemental and reducible) forms – ever transforming, moving, fracturing, and transecting the bounds of cognitively predefined notions of visual space. Another ingenious manifestation of Breer’s re-contextualization and transformation of two-dimensional space appears in the brief, isolated sequence of conic sections – a red triangle and black circle – locked in a hyperkinetic, follow-the-leader chase before the triangle becomes entrapped in a rigid “black box”, seemingly imbalancing the object in its encapsulated potentiality that causes the overarching frame to fragment, not according to prescribed linear decomposition of the geometric sides of a rectangle, but rather, splinters into infinitely recursive, rectangular sub-frames that reveal a residual trail, recalling a rudimentary, prefiguring visual architecture of modern-day, computer-rendered mathematical fractals. More conceptually elaborate than cartoons, yet less formalist (and serious-minded) than typical gallery performance art, Robert Breer’s unclassifiable animation film fuses infectious creative whimsy and penchant for structure and geometric precision with the decontextualized abstraction of modern art to create an indelible, visually arresting study of figures in motion where space becomes object, matter becomes void, and everything is relative, interdependent, mutable, and in a state of perpetual – and curiously wondrous – metamorphosis.

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