Roland Brener’s Swinger starts with a readymade, an image of a businessman in a suit and tie. Using a computer, the image is distorted laterally, creating a disturbingly bloated figure on a swing that has been described as a cross between a Buddha and Humpty Dumpty. Deitch Projects presents three of these "Swingers" suspended from the ceiling of its storefront gallery.
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The curator and writer Philip Monk has written that the swingers remind him of Franz Xavier Messerschmidt’s perversely caricatured portrait busts. "As Messerschmidt’s mad expressions shattered the rational mien of neoclassical ideals," Monk writes, "Brener’s morphed businessmen contaminate the rational basis of digital virtuality... Brener chooses to tinker with species representation. His figures deviate from the classical norm based on the idealized human body. Closer to the disorder of cartoons and monsters, they are misbegotten caricatures that are out of proportion. And in Western rationalism, where there is no measure, there is madness."
Roland Brener’s work fuses formalism with a conceptual and theatrical approach. He spent the late 1960s in London where he studied with Anthony Caro at the St. Martin’s School of Art. He has continued to push this formalist foundation into a more irrational arena.
Brener’s work and his teaching have had a wide influence in Canada where he taught for many years at the University of Victoria. His influence in the United States is felt through former students such as Charles Ray, with whom he continues to maintain a strong artistic dialogue.
Brener was born in South Africa in 1942. After studies in London, he emigrated to Canada. Brener is an avid sailor and Philip Monk has pointed out the analogy between the boat he sails and the sculptures he designs with the aid of a computer. "Both the work of art and the well-crafted sailboat have responded to the forces that brought them into being -- forces whose confluence and balance they embody. But balance is precarious, and these lines of force could easily lead to a crack-up."