September 15, 2015

Brian Bress: Make Your Own Friends

Utah Museum of Fine Arts
Brian Bress, Three Faces, 2014. HD three-channel video (color), monitors and players, wall mounts, framed, 20:01 minutes, loop. 37.75 x 73.5 x 4 inches installed. Courtesy of Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles. © Brian Bress.

Brian Bress: Make Your Own Friends offers an in-depth examination of the last ten years of Bress’s practice, bringing together video, sculpture, and works on paper for the first time. Born as doodles or collages, Bress’s characters take shape as sculptural costumes and come to life on video as they are performed in front of elaborately composed backdrops. Bress specifically crafts and limits their physical appearance, use of language, and repetitive movements, making his characters immediately relatable, which is extremely satisfying for the viewer. As Bress explains through the voice of his character Captain Comfort in Status Report, “I like making everybody feel comfortable.”

A child of the ’70s and ’80s, Bress enlists the tactics of classic children’s television programming to engage viewers. Through play—particularly make-believe, repetition, and humor—he gains the confidence of his audience. Then, like Pee-wee Herman and the Muppets, Bress’s characters address the fourth wall and invite the audience to participate. The absurdity and familiarity of Bress’s approach breaks down barriers to reception and encourages creative, expansive thinking. Bress helps his viewers let their guards down, priming them to pick up what he is putting down, be it dirty comedy, lessons on empathy, or social critique.

Working on video or on paper, Bress approaches his art making like a painter. Early videos were shot with a fixed frame, providing a single straightforward viewpoint. Sets were designed with heavy consideration of the formal elements of line, texture, color, and compositional balance. Collages and costumes similarly reveal the artist’s touch and painterly gesture. Recent videos––silent, wireless, and hanging in custom frames––occupy the space and language of painting more fully. Meandering from the museum’s lobby to the salt gallery and throughout the encyclopedic collection, the artworks in Brian Bress: Make Your Own Friends highlight the artist’s unique process, which moves from two dimensions to three and back again. Connecting the past with the present, Bress’s “friends” inhabit the museum, conversing with beloved art historical characters and challenging the distinctions between painting, drawing, sculpture, performance, and video.

Brian Bress (American, born 1975, lives Los Angeles, CA) has a BFA in film/animation/video from the Rhode Island School of Design (1998) and an MFA in painting and drawing from the University of California, Los Angeles (2006). He also studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Drawing (2007). Recently, he has had solo exhibitions at Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museo d’arte contemporanea, Rome; Galeria Marta Cevera, Madrid; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA; and the New Museum, New York. His work can be found in the permanent collections of such institutions as the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary, Chicago; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Brian Bress: Make Your Own Friends is jointly curated by Whitney Tassie, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, and Nora Burnett Abrams, Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

Brian Bress: Make Your Own Friends at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts is presented as the 12th installment of the UMFA’s salt series of new work by emerging contemporary artists from around the globe. This presentation of the exhibition is made possible by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the UMFA Friends of Contemporary Art (FoCA). The exhibition will travel to the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver in February 2016.

Press contact:
Mindy Wilson, T +801 581 7328 / [email protected]


Brian Bress at Utah Museum of Fine Arts

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