Sebastiaan Bremer

BY Sarah Schmerler, September 28, 2013

Sebastiaan Bremer, Point de Vue Odalisque. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery

This strong show of 16 altered C-prints by Amsterdam-born, New York-based Sebastiaan Bremer (his third with Edwynn Houk) finds the now-middle-aged artist’s oeuvre growing in sophistication. Known for his unique mashups of hand-limned patterns on personal, snapshot-style photographs with a nostalgic if trippy, psychedelic air, Bremer seems bent on perfecting a kind of formal mastery. He tweaks most every pictorial aspect of his process: layering imagery in Photoshop until he gets the tonalities just right; incorporating photographic dyes that stain the work into a fool-the-eye sheen somewhere between opacity and transparency; and etching  — at times deeply — into the emulsion’s surface with an exacto blade to achieve a hair-thin, perfect line. As if that weren’t enough, Bremer ups his conceptual ante as well, appropriating previous photographic works by the likes of Bill Brandt, Hans Bellmer, and Brassai.

Sebastiaan Bremer, Interieur Gravure Carre. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery

The results sunder the borders between the mediums of photography and painting in impressive ways (where does one begin and the other end? does it even matter anymore?). But even more intriguing is the way juxtapositions like figure and ground, indoors and out, (nude) figure and landscape get blurred in the process. La Cinquieme Poupee looks like the architectural model for a Calatrava or Saarinen building resting comfortably on a leather couch. The near-square and blue-toned La Dame Combinee features what seems to be the world’s most monumental nude studio model, her body composed of impossibly stacked breasts and folds of flesh. And in Interieur, a (photographed) woman in an interior scene rests her head, obscured by hair, in her hands, while a Picasso’esque (drawn) woman ecstatically raises her arm to the sky above her. Bremer wielded his blade to both complement the emulsion — echoing the room’s wainscoting with some of his own, drawn patterns — and foil it. When he “cuts” individual strands on and around the wavy, tonal mass that photographically represents her head, it’s as if to prove that the human hand can go where the mechanical eye can’t.

Bremer is at the top of his form, and his association with Houk’s photographic stable seems to be nurturing his artistic growth. That said, there could have been four or five fewer works on display. A number, for all their bravura, were a bit too enthralled with their surface for their own good, barely giving us a moment to catch our breath and plumb the content they sought to convey.