Brian Porray Western Project // May 19 – July 7, 2012 By Holly Myers
Encountering Porray's paintings as I did, on a day of dismayingly unexceptional gallery hopping, when nothing the art world had to offer seemed capable of mounting a very good argument against the temptation to head for the beach, was a bit like meeting the one entertaining stranger at an otherwise tedious office party. His name was unfamiliar, his CV modest: A recent graduate of the MFA program at University of Nevada, Las Vegas (he ow lives in Claremont, just east of Los Angeles), he had a backroom solo show at Western Project last year but has otherwise shown primarily in Las Vegas and Reno. A preliminary glance at the images on the gallery's Web site, moreover, had been notably misleading. In reproduction, the work has a flat, graphic character that would seem to consign it to the category of pleasant but facile geometric abstraction. In person, however, this is clearly not the case: Drop them into such a category and these marvelous paintings would probably rattle out of their own accord. They're loud, messy, intricate, weird, and buzzing with ardent, reckless energy.
In an artist statement Porray likens the show to "the psychedelic memory of a psychedelic memory." and roots its genesis in a fraught vision of the Luxor hotel that came to him at one of the 'chemically enhanced desert parties" that defined his adolescence in Las Vegas. The hotel, a 30-story glass pyramid that shoots an egregiously powerful beam of light into the heavens from its apex, echoes through the work in the form of a repeated triangular motif, around which all manner of pictorial havoc unfolds. In each of the three largest paintings – the biggest being 8-by-18 feet – a pyramid at the base of the canvas lends the composition an air of architectural stability, while a second, inverted pyramid above seems to willfully upend all such expectations, as if in portentous affirmation of the multidimensionality of the cosmos. Meanwhile, a blazingly chaotic miscellany of patterns unfolds across every available surface: stripes, checkerboards, circles, square, saw tooth edges, and rainbow arches – all fluctuating continually from crisp and neat to loose and sloppy, wavering and dripping. Imagine an Op art monograph put through a shredder and patched together again by an enthusiastic speed freak in the dark. A handful of smaller, triangular canvases, most hung point down like banners from the junction of the wall and the ceiling, complement the tumult with a touch of small-town car dealership festivity.
In another unusually entertaining artist statement, which was included in Porray's first show at ht gallery, the artist offers a compelling take on the dystopic, neo-futurist, post apocalyptic landscape in paintings – speculations that apply as neatly to this body of work as to the one he showed the previous year – before concluding: "But also, I feel strongly that the work should have real visual consequence – like, it should be a real fucking trip to stand in front of….super active and maybe even a bit nauseating – but definitely not shy or passive." Shy or passive this work is not, indeed, and thank goodness. In his bold, is slightly mad attention to "visual consequence," Porray achieves what painting rarely attempts anymore: the creation of a world in which it is not only a pleasure but a thrill to lose oneself.
// Holly Myers