“Have you ever made a collage by cutting out a shape in the center of a piece of paper and layering it over another image to fill the void in the top image?” Bress, B. (2016, May 17th). Email Interview.
This is both iconographic, digital artist Brian Bress’s inspiration and artistic process for his timeless and surreal video art piece,Three Faces. Featured amongst the collection of his past ten years of tireless work in his recent exhibition Make Your Own Friends, the work playfully and surreally encaptures the audience's eyes. The twenty minute and one second three-channel video is exhibited on high definition monitors and players. Each screen framed in wood, giving you the sensation that you are peering into a moving portrait.
Inspired by the technique of subtraction to reveal new imagery Three Faces features three unique and colorfully costumed characters, on three separate monitors, sawing faces into collages with a jigsaw as to slowly reveal themselves to the audience. Made specifically for Bress’s wedding and originally seventy feet long and fifteen feet high, the collages are only portions of the original piece and made from photo mural backdrops using found materials from magazines and books. Each character is performed by Bress in geometric teal and canary costumes created by Bress himself. Though they are aesthetically similar, each costume is performed as a different character. Each with an individual identity, which they present for us in their carvings. When asked about the aesthetic choice to utilize a monitor for each character, Brian Bress explained...
“I think there’s something compelling about watching and being able to compare three of a kind” Bress, B. (2016, May 17th). Email Interview.
When one first enters Make Your Own Friends they are presented with simple doodles, collages, and sketches. As the series has mostly been exhibited in modern, fine art wings of galleries and museums the inclusion of these sketches seems awkward to some at a first glance.
“Through their playful abstraction, these images resemble the modern artistic movements of cubism and dadaism. But while the collages are imaginatively abstract, the sketches are nothing more than modest doodles on lined paper” Hill, Scotti, (September 26th, 2015) New Brian Bress exhibit at UMFA escapes classification to create unique experience.
But as the audience further explores the series they are met with life-sized realizations of the simplistic drawings. These otherworldly costumes and sculptures, coated in beads and other found objects, are shells in which Bress both creates and inhabits in his various video artworks. Each a unique character for Bress to explore a unique space as. As the viewers continue through the space they see these sculptures and costumes live, breathe on various monitors. His process moves cyclically through the dimension. He starts on paper in the second dimension, to the third in the form of his costume creations, and back to the second on the screen. Make Your Own Friends is a journey through Bress’s mind as he explores creation. In exhibiting the work in this style, audiences are able to best appreciate the artistic process Bress undergoes whilst forging such abstract figures and synthesizing a world for each of them.
“These figures are usually awkward in their bulkiness, and their actions are mind-numbingly simple, but they still require time and attention to capture the logic of what they are doing” Kurchanova, Natasha (December 6th, 2014). Brian Bress: ‘I come to video with the agenda of a painter’.
Bress enjoys keeping it simple, keeping his audience comfortable whilst in character. This simplicity flows into every aspect of each character’s performance on screen. This being a swift avenue to gleaning their understanding of the purposes of his work. Relatability is key.
“Bress specifically crafts and limits their physical appearance, use of language, and repetitive movements, making his characters immediately relatable, which is extremely satisfying for the viewer” Wilson, Mindy (2015). Brian Bress: Make Your Own Friends .
Raised on classic children’s television of the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, Brian Bress channels key components of said television to engage his viewers. Through playful make-believe, humor, and repetition Bress gleans the confidence of his audiences. Much like his inspirations, the Muppets and Pee-Wee Herman, he waits until viewers feel comfortable in the familiarity. Only then does Bress break the fourth wall. In doing so, he invites his audience to participate in play. To expand their creativity. To let their guard down and to cool off. In Three Faces Bress, manages to do exactly this. In its playful nature, this exuberant video art piece is accessible to all, never above anybodies head. This aspect of the work is invaluable to Bress who wishes for not just the artistic community but the whole world to share in his art.
“I like the idea that anyone could enjoy the piece regardless of their understanding of art history, contemporary art, or the techniques involved” Bress, B. (2016, May 17th). Email Interview.
As one can see from the various detail-orientated processes that lead up to each and every one of Brian Bress’s video artworks, Brian Bress is a different breed of artist. While his mediums vary massively, Bress thinks of the methodology of his work as that of a painter.
“In general though I think that my agenda is closer to that of a painter than a video artist” Bress, B. (2016, May 17th). Email Interview.
His painterly style comes forth in Three Faces in numerous ways. The fixed frame style of videography he utilizes gives us a singular, straightforward viewpoint. This comes across with a sort of portriatesque aesthetic. The set of the piece, as well as in many of his other works, focuses on line, texture, and color. This, along with a heavy consideration of compositional balance, makes each video come across as if it were painted rather than shot. Even the earlier steps in the artistic process, such as the collages and costumes, give off the stylism of a painter. Each part a sketch, a blueprint of what the final living portrait will entail.
This painterly aesthetic was really recognized following his video artwork titled, Ridley Tree-Sleeper #1. Brian Bress was invited by the curator at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art to be displayed in an Impressionist gallery. So Bress created a collage inspired by the paintings found hanging in that same Impressionist gallery. Through the combination of this same collage and the color of the paint on the gallery walls, Bress cultivated a costumed character as well as a set for a video art portrait. The piece is as if he breathed life into his collage. Bress created a clay face based on the face from the collage, then cast it in rubber and foam so that the face became a hand operated puppet. This puppet was designed to make the eyes open and close, as if to fall asleep. The video piece included two performers... Bress operating the puppets face and his friend Nick, whose arms were featured as that of the the characters. To Bress this was another element of play added to the performance of the piece. He describes this addition as…
“Do you know that game where one person stands behind the other person and pretends to be their arms. It was sort of like that” Bress, B. (2016, May 17th). Email Interview.
This is playful quality is a driving focus in Bress’s work. It sprouts up in all of his creations, and supports his work’s relationship with his audiences. Ridley Tree-Sleeper #1 and Three Faces utilize this same technique, this comforting sensation, to enrapture audiences from all walks of life. To expand the creativity of his viewers, to disrupt the obstacles that bubble forth in attempts at reception. Despite the many driving similarities between the two works, there are some major points of deviation. For example, Three Faces was inspired by the techniques of collage art while Ridley Tree-Sleeper #1 was an elaboration on a previous work of a different medium. To view Ridley Tree-Sleeper #1 click here!
While Three Faces is not accessible to view outside of Make Your Own Friends, click here to view Bress’s vimeo! Brian Bress’s Make Your Own Friends is currently on display at the MCA Denver and is most definitely worth a visit! See it before it moves on July third!
>The MCA, Denver
>Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles;
>Los Angeles County Museum of Art;
>Museo d’arte contemporanea, Rome;
>Galeria Marta Cevera, Madrid;
>Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA;
>the New Museum, New York