Critic's Choice

Brian Bress' gentle videos at Cherry and Martin get back to basics

Art review: Brian Bress' gentle videos at Cherry and Martin move slowly

Brian Bress’ new videos are quiet affairs that lure viewers into a world of subtle enchantment. That’s the world of the L.A. artist’s imagination.

It shares little with conventional visions of what goes on inside artists’ heads. Since Romanticism, that space has been made out to be the home of all sorts of wild and crazy stuff, the more shocking the better.

The simplicity of Bress’ vision also takes us away from the everything-in-a-split-second attitude that instantaneous communication seems to have implanted in people.

Today, we behave as if we believe that impatience is a virtue, that gruffness is a good thing and that the only interactions that matter are those that come with tidy takeaways.

Rather than cutting to the chase, Bress’ gentle videos at Cherry and Martin move slowly. Nothing spectacular happens. No drama. No special effects. Not a single scene for the highlight reel.

On first glance, you might mistake Bress’ eight videos for paintings. Each flat-screen monitor is framed. All but one hang on the wall. Their palettes are calm, cool and collected: supple pastels, creamy whites and tasteful grays. Abstract shapes and figurative elements play well with each other, each contributing to an anxiety-free atmosphere.

Only a few seconds pass before you discover that Bress’ works are videos. Sometimes a line appears to be drawing itself across an unadorned surface. At other times a human hand carefully rolls lumps of clay into abstract forms and arranges them in patterns.

In the most fascinating two pieces, each a two-monitor diptych, a pair of comically costumed characters draws with markers or arranges small sculptures in various compositions, some recognizably figurative and others utterly nonsensical.

A stop-and-start tempo animates Bress’ works, which freeze time in photo-style stillness while putting you in mind of technology on the fritz. Think Mr. Potato Head meets Fred from "Captain Kangaroo" and you’ll understand the back-to-the-basics playfulness of Bress’ artistry.

It’s great fun to try to figure out how he made his DIY videos. In some, he wears costumes that prevent him from seeing. In others, he tries to repeat simple gestures — and fails. Many were shot through panes of glass. In one, a sheet of plywood stands between camera and actor.

In all, Bress makes it seem as if viewers are in two positions simultaneously: on the outside looking in and inside looking out. Inviting us into his head, he intensifies the mystery of consciousness and the magic of communication without the hullabaloo that accompanies much lesser endeavors.

Cherry and Martin, 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd., (310) 559-0100, through Jan. 3. Closed Sundays and Mondays.


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