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Art review: Brian Porray's chaos in focus at Western Project

Art often gets talked about in terms of the freedom it delivers — to those who make it and to those who look at it. For Brian Porray, the idea of freedom is too high-minded, idealized and easily corrupted by zealous self-righteousness.

Insubordination is what the young, Las Vegas-born, L.A.-based painter understands, inside and out. It pours forth in torrents from his electrifying exhibition at Western Project, a no-holds-barred carnival of optical kinetics, whiplash spatial shifts and head-spinning highjinks that explain why some see Porray as one of the best of his generation.

Titled "|*/N0_N3W_M00N\*|," his third solo show in Los Angeles is jampacked with 30 paintings. Each of the variously sized panels and canvases is jampacked with so much visual information that it is almost an exhibition unto itself, especially when contrasted with much of the wan stuff being made today, stuff that makes good old-fashioned slacker art look overly ambitious.

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Porray takes the anarchistic impulse at the heart of slackerdom to the next level  — and beyond. His cacophonous collisions of pulsating polka dots, asymmetrical Xs, malformed stars, tweaked diamonds, squeezed grids, shaky spirals and goofy doodles jostle among one another to form improvised arrangements that are anything but orderly. On the threshold of being out of control, each of his compositions is all the more potent for its precariousness.

Staid paintings these are not. Imagine 500 people pressing themselves into a subway car built for 150 and then being happy to be on board. This gives you an idea of the pressure Porray brings to his paintings, whose density invites second, third and fourth looks.

Paradoxically, his manically collaged constellations of everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink make you slow down and look closely. They create space for contemplation. Not your father’s serenity, but something more charged and sharply focused.   

Porray’s cut-and-paste compositions transform collage into a visual force field of antipodal energy. Ad hoc order holds chaos at bay as democratic principles open onto anarchy at its best: freewheeling, boundary-busting, limitless. Insubordination never looked better -- nor served such socially useful purposes.

Western Project, 2762 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 838-0609, through March 22. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.western-project.com

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