Guest Stars and Sci Fi: Brian Porray at Western Project

Brian Porray’s (NAP #84 & 2010 MFA Annual) second solo exhibition at Western Project is quite simply a must see and must feel.  He fills the large, open gallery space with his signature bright and bold explosions of color, movement, and energy.  In his last show, he focused on capturing the essence of his hometown Vegas and the complex power of the Luxor Hotel, and in this show, he moves to something else just as unsettling and unnerving as sin city can be to some – the ever-changing and impermanent night sky and the sci fi terrors and wonder it can bring to us mortals. – Ellen C. Caldwell

Brian Porray | installation view at Western Project
, 2014. Image courtesy of Western Project.

Brian Porray | _+type1A+_, 2013,
Synthetic polymer, fabric, paper, spray paint on canvas, 84 x 64 inches. Image courtesy of Western Project.

Brian Porray | _+type1A+_, detail. Image courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell

In |*/N0_N3W_M00N\*|, Porray uses his usual “leet” computer hacker titles for his show, both recalling the digital age we are in while also refusing it through his large-scale hand assemblage, mixed-medium collage, and painting.  His artistic hand and organic processes can be seen throughout each and every piece, as paint drips dramatically throughout. This dripping highlights his very process as it is physically apparent he let gravity do the work on many of the paintings, thus flipping the canvases physically over on their sides, tops, or bottoms, again and again letting the painting flow, drip, and take its methodical and haphazard course.

Brian Porray | installation view of
++4Nti EV1L-EY3++, 2013, Synthetic polymer, spray paint, paper, fabric, colored pencil on canvas, 80 x 136 inches. Image courtesy of Western Project.

Porray again creates welcoming moments in both the overall feel of the show and the specific moments within the subtle details.  Fabric rubs up on collage, on paint, on paper, on stickers, on magazine photography, and more.  There is an energy within his work that is easily palpable upon even setting foot in the gallery.  Part of this is certainly the contrasting colors and dramatic binary opposition within the patterns and paint in his work, but part of it is purely from spatial and cognitive play. 

Brian Porray |
++4Nti EV1L-EY3++, detail. Image courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell.

Brian Porray |
++4Nti EV1L-EY3++, detail. Image courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell.

This feeling, this energy, this unease, and this excitement, is all something Porray sought out to explore within his show. He was researching the life and death of stars and “cosmic objects” and in doing so, he became particularly interested in exploring RCW 86, one of the earliest recorded supernova’s in China 185 CE.  As he explains, “Lacking any real understanding of supernova events they referred to this new celestial object as a ‘guest star’ – a star that begins to shine where there was previously nothing and disappears again after a short time. The relatively large size of RCW 86’s gas shell meant that the dying star would have appeared to be almost as large as the full moon in the night sky. It is difficult to fully grasp how foreboding and sinister this must have been – without a concrete interpretation of what was happening the ancient stargazers were left with wonder, fear, superstition, and conjecture to make sense of what they were seeing.”

Brian Porray | (((((D4Rk5T4R))))), 2012,
Synthetic polymer, fabric, paper on canvas, 50 x 44 inches. Image courtesy of Western Project.

Brian Porray | (((((D4Rk5T4R))))), detail. Image courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell

Porray taps into this feeling of unrest and excitement in his works.  Whether big or small (they range in size drastically from about 15 x 12” all the way to about 80 x 136”), his pieces recall and capture an explosive tension.  Unlike the “guest star” upon which he reflects, it is clear that Porray continues to be and will remain a heavy hitting and enduring star in contemporary painting.


Brian Porray’s exhibit runs at Western Project through March 22nd. Porray lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He is currently in Art for Art's Sake: Selections from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Barrick Museum, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and NEW NEON: Light, Paint & Photography at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, California, and was recently included in Jason Hoelscher’s, “Pattern and Deregulation: Beauty and Non-Order in Contemporary Painting”, in ARTPULSE magazine.

Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, editor, and writer.


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