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.)
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, mingling virtual and real images — attracted the attention of the gallerist Richard Feigen, who organized a solo show of his work in 1967 in Manhattan.
“Marcel Duchamp came to the opening, shook my hand, and said, ‘I like your work,’” Mr. Breder told PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art in 2011. “An auspicious moment!”
Artistically restless, Mr. Breder began branching out. In the conceptual series “Ordered by Telephone” (1969), he called in specifications to an industrial fabricator, who assembled Plexiglas sheets into sculptures that he delivered to the Feigen gallery in Chicago without showing them to the artist.
In “Body/Sculptures,” a series from the early 1970s, Mr. Breder photographed nude models holding mirror-like steel plates that transformed their legs and torsos into a biomorphic tangle.