The Chrysler is pleased to exhibit new works from a local who grew up and made it big. Born and raised in Norfolk and now based in Los Angeles, Brian Bress honed an early interest in art with classes at the Governor's School for the Arts, the d'Art Center, and what's known today as Virginia MOCA. He attended the Rhode Island School of Design to study illustration, concentrating on video and animation, and he focused on painting while studying for a MFA at UCLA.
His work in The Box, Man with a Cigarette, began with a pen-and-ink drawing Bress found in a thrift store. It depicted a man wearing a fedora and a jacket with wide lapels. The unknown artist used an array of techniques—from hatch marks and ragged shading to pointillistic dots and checkerboard patterns—and Bress said it seemed as if "the drawing was an artist's love letter to drawing."His work will be featured in two separate galleries. WOWMOM, shown above, can be seen in our McKinnon Galleries of Modern and Contemporary Art. Anchoring the end of Gallery 224, WOMWOM plays with the "fourth wall" of perception. A glorious mountain landscape is actually being cut apart from behind by curious creatures with power tools. Bress described the work as "playing around with the illusion of putting a figure inside a flat glowing box." At some point, the feelings seem reversed; you're not watching the artwork, the creatures inside the art are watching you.
For this four-part video wall, Bress meticulously sculpted the hand-drawn man as a larger-than-life-sized costume. In a symphony of slow, coordinated movements, Bress' creation heightens a sense of the uncanny, and draws in the viewer while challenging basic assumptions of space and time. It's a single image with breaks between the monitors, but thanks to the clever choreography, the breaks themselves became part of the overall concept. What should be an illustration of the limits of technology, the edge of the screen, becomes a structural strength of the work that offers surprises along the way.
This is the first time Bress has created a larger-than-life, full-figure portrait, and as an extra tip in the appreciation of this piece, when it comes to Man With a Cigarette, pay attention to the cigarette and the length of the ash as a measure of time.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.