Artist Marco Breuer has combed the de Young Museum’s collection to create an exhibition that allows visitors to view museum art in an unconventional way.
“Marco Breuer: Line of Sight,” organized by the Fine Arts Museums in cooperation with the Von Lintel Gallery in New York, is part of the de Young’s Collection Connections program, which features the work of contemporary artists alongside objects from the museum’s permanent collection.
The New York-based artist spent time last year looking at the de Young’s collection — including objects in storage waiting to be restored — then assembled the exhibit during a few days in spring.
“We hope this will stimulate our audience to think about the museum and what it collects and cares for in a new and interesting way,” says Julian Cox, the de Young’s chief curator.
Breuer’s abstract photographs are placed to create a dialogue with items that include a 19th-century English shotgun, a pair of gilded girandoles with mirrors, an Oceanic shield and a French silk-taffeta dress.
One of the most interesting pieces Breuer chose from the museum’s collection is artist Samuel Walker’s portrait of Mrs. Mary Jane White, whose husband served as San Francisco’s sheriff from 1868 to 1871. The portrait, which is in the process of being restored, has several squares of Japanese tissue paper covering areas of the painting that need repair.
Some of the patches nearly obscure Mrs. White’s face, adding a mysterious quality. Breuer took the pattern created by the patches and projected it onto the opposite wall, where he added his own work.
“Pieces have a life beyond their moment of creation,” Breuer says.
Breuer’s photographs are one-of-a-kind. His tools include palm sanders, heat guns and razor blades. To create “Untitled (Study for Tremors),” he took the heating element of a frying pan and dragged it across a sheet of paper.
As he created connections between his own work and the museum objects, Breuer talked to museum staff about conservation issues, lighting design and how objects are displayed and protected.
The work is displayed in a single gallery. The contrast of new and old — and the decision to show objects that are not perfectly preserved — creates an experience that is far from static.
“I’m interested in a level of ambiguity,” Breuer says. “I don’t spell things out.”
Where: de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, S.F.
When: 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays; closes Oct. 2
Cost: $10 general, $7 seniors, $6 youths, free for children 12 and under and the first Tuesday of each month
Contact: (415) 750-3600, www.deyoung.famsf.org