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Sep 15, 2016. - May 7, 2017.

In The Box: Brian Bress

"Man With a Cigarette" and "WOWMOM"

Brian Bress, WOWMOM, 2015. High definition, synchronized three-channel video (color), high definition monitors and players, wall mounts, framed. On loan from the artist and Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles. This work is on view in Gallery 224.

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.

A work by Brian Bress. Click to enlarge.

A video still from Brian Bress, Man with Cigarette,, 2016. High-definition four-channel video (color), four high-definition monitors and players, wall-mounted and framed. On loan from the artist and Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles. To watch an excerpt on Vimeo, click here.

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.

His work in The Box, Man With 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."

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 tecnhology, 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 Cigarette, pay attention to the cigarette and the length of the ash as a measure of time.

These works will be on view from Sept. 15, 2016, through May 7, 2017. Admission is free.

For more on this exhibition, see the official press release. Here is a feature story from the Virginian-Pilot.

For more on the work of this innovative young artist, see

Brian Bress at his Chrysler lecture.

Brian Bress speaking to a Kaufman Theater crowd on opening night. Click image to enlarge.