Hans Breder, Who Created a New Frontier, Breaking Artistic Boundaries, Dies at 81

“My program conceived of intermedia not as an interdisciplinary fusing of different fields into one, but as a constant collision of concepts and disciplines,” he told Artforum magazine in 2012.

The program proved to be an incubator for both students and established artists, whom Mr. Breder invited to teach and work. Robert Wilson, one of the first in a long list of visiting artists, developed his mostly silent drama “Deafman Glance” (1970) at Iowa. Other visitors included Vito Acconci, Karen Finley, Hans Haacke and Allan Kaprow. (Mr. Acconci died in April.)

Several of the program’s students went on to enjoy celebrated careers, notably Charles Ray and Ana Mendieta. Mr. Breder had a 10-year romantic relationship with Ms. Mendieta, the subject of the “Ventosa” series of photographs that he took on their trips to Mexico.

Under his influence, Ms. Mendieta developed an arresting style of what she called body performances. Her career was cut short when, in 1985, she fell to her death from the high-rise apartment she shared with her husband, the sculptor Carl Andre. (Mr. Andre was charged with pushing her but was acquitted in a 1988 trial.)

Photo

From the series, “Body/Sculptures” (1969-1973).

Credit
Hans Breder/Ethan Cohen Gallery

Hans Dieter Breder was born on Oct. 20, 1935 in Herford, Germany, in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. His father, Johannes, a railroad worker, died when he was 3, and he was brought up by his mother, the former Hedwig Hoener.

After studying with the Surrealist Woldemar Winkler in his late teens, Mr. Breder enrolled in the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg, graduating in 1964.

On a foreign study grant he traveled to New York, where he worked as an assistant to the kinetic sculptor George Rickey. His early work — polished metal forms or plastic cubes placed over mirrors or stripes,…

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