Brian Bress has described himself as coming to video with the agenda of a painter. His single- and multi-channel videos address the connections between film, photography and painting, and the two-dimensional picture plane these mediums share. Presented as wall-mounted HD monitor works, Bress’s videos unfold as a soundless, digital loop in which isolated actors (often the artist himself) perform in various forms of dress. The faces, torsos, and arms of these characters are obscured by painted masks and suits. They face frontal and use the HD monitor’s screen as a picture plane through which they cut with reciprocating saws to reveal their own presence.
Bress uses new technology to address old issues pertaining to art: form, color, space, and composition. The “animated paintings” (Andrew Bernardini, “Art Agenda,” June 9, 2017) are always neatly presented and framed, as though the video is a window in which we may peer into Bress’s world. Each component found in the work is made in studio, from the costumes and shallow sets in which his characters act. While the mechanics of the camera rationalize Bress’s actions two-dimensionally, the action in the studio is physical. It is the movement of Bress’s own body that creates the sculptural shape, which allow for a dialogue between sculpture and video.
In his video works Bress plays a range of characters: chefs, cowboys, firemen, and farmers. These characters look directly at the viewer, breaking the so-called fourth wall. Bress’s often wall-mounted video works remind the viewer that the relational nature of art objects—and screens—are both virtual and physical. In making a video act like a painting or a sculpture, Bress uses the physical terms of other mediums to investigate how screen-based communication works in our culture. Bress pulls apart the assumption that picture looking—or screen-watching—is a passive, one-sided relationship.
Brian Bress (b. 1975, Norfolk, VA) received his BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI) in 1998 and his MFA from the University of California (Los Angeles, CA) in 2006. His work was recently featured in "In Production" at the Yuz Museum, Shanghai, organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; "Brian Bress: Pictures Become You," Akron Art Museum (Akron, OH); and "Paradox: The Body in the Age of AI," Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA). Bress’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions including “Idiom (Brian, Raffi, Britt),” Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA); “Interventions: Brian Bress,” Santa Barbara Museum of Art (Santa Barbara, CA); "In the Box: Brian Bress," Chrysler Museum of Art (Norfolk, VA); "The Imperfect Tense (for Josef Albers)," Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD); "Screens: Virtual Material," DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum (Boston, MA); "Commercial Break," Public Art Fund (New York, NY); “Brian Bress: Status Report,” New Museum (New York, NY); Museo d’arte contemporanea Roma (Rome, Italy); and "2016 Moving Image Biennial," Centre d'Art Contemporain Genève (Geneva, Switzerland). His 2015-16 touring exhibition, "Brian Bress: Make Your Own Friends," opened at Utah Museum of Fine Arts (Salt Lake City, UT) and traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (Denver, CO) and Orange County Museum of Art (Newport Beach, CA). His work is in the collections of Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation (Los Angeles, CA); Hammer Museum (Los Angeles, CA); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA); Palm Springs Museum of Art (Palm Springs, CA); Santa Barbara Museum of Art (Santa Barbara, CA); San Diego Museum of Art (San Diego, CA); Museum of Contemporary Art (San Diego, CA); Portland Museum of Art (Portland, OR); Utah Museum of Fine Arts (Salt Lake City, UT); Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Houston, TX); Oklahoma State University Museum (Stillwater, OK); Akron Art Museum (Akron, OH); Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago (Chicago, IL); Loyola University Museum of Art (Chicago, IL); Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago, IL); Norton Museum of Art (West Palm Beach, FL); and Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY). Bress lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.