Los Angeles Times

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

By David Pagel

Feb 21, 2014

++4Nti EV1L-EY3++ synthetic polymer, spray paint, paper, fabric, colored pencil on canvas 2013


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. 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.


New American Paintings

Guest Stars and Sci Fi: Brian Porray at Western Project

By Ellen Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor

May 22, 2012

pg_117071396553326.jpg| _+type1A+_|, 2013, Synthetic polymer, fabric, paper, spray paint on canvas, 84 x 64 inches. Image courtesy of 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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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



ArtPulse Magazine

Pattern and Deregulation: Beauty and Non-Order in Contemporary Painting

By Jason Hoelscher

vol. 4, no. 17, November 2013


     "Among painters who privilege such experiential deregulatory interruptions are Allison Miller and Brian Porray. Miller’s painting Actor (2011) alternately creates, alludes to and disrupts at least three distinct DPI resolutions of grid, managing to be orderly in some sections and self-contradictory in others. The painting looks as if the grids and neon squares seek to mesh into an orderly pattern but must settle instead for incommensurate individuality, a playful ‘differend’ of orderly non-order. Porray’s [‘’’’’5T4nD4RD C4nD13’’’’’] (2013) is a pictorially aggressive presentation of interrupted patters, stripes and shapes, pushing toward outright discord. The articulated geometric forms in the center looks like an attempt by Paul Klee and Thomas Nozkowski to build a geodesic dome; almost orderly, but not quite. Even here, though, is a fragmented kind of orderliness. Rather than regularity and pattern we get an irregular almost-pattern of shapes, each containing a section orderly in itself but chaotic in the context of the whole. Miller and Porray present work that moves toward orderly purpose but veers away at the last minute, creating a kind of skewed order that’s all the more era-appropriate – and perhaps (post)beautiful – as a result. Neither explicitly orderly nor disorderly, it’s the oscillatory, relational in-betweenness that counts; order plus disorder equals non-order."





Modern Painters Magazine

Brian Porray @ Western Project // May 19 – July 7, 2012

By Holly Myers

October 2012


V4S()C()NSTRYKT()R, 2011


Encountering Porray's paintings as I did, on a day of dismayingly unexceptional gallery hopping, when nothing the art world had to offer seemed capable of mounting a very good argument against the temptation to head for the beach, was a bit like meeting the one entertaining stranger at an otherwise tedious office party. His name was unfamiliar, his CV modest: A recent graduate of the MFA program at University of Nevada, Las Vegas (he now lives in Claremont, ju­st east of Los Angeles), he had a backroom solo show at Western Project last year but has otherwise shown primarily in Las Vegas and Reno. A preliminary glance at the images on the gallery's Web site, moreover, had been notably misleading. In reproduction, the work has a flat, graphic character that would seem to consign it to the category of pleasant but facile geometric abstraction. In person, however, this is clearly not the case: Drop them into such a category and these marvelous paintings would probably rattle out of their own accord. They're loud, messy, intricate, weird, and buzzing with ardent, reckless energy.


In an artist statement Porray likens the show to "the psychedelic memory of a psychedelic memory." and roots its genesis in a fraught vision of the Luxor hotel that came to him at one of the 'chemically enhanced desert parties" that defined his adolescence in Las Vegas. The hotel, a 30-story glass pyramid that shoots an egregiously powerful beam of light into the heavens from its apex, echoes through the work in the form of a repeated triangular motif, around which all manner of pictorial havoc unfolds. In each of the three largest paintings – the biggest being 8-by-18 feet – a pyramid at the base of the canvas lends the composition an air of architectural stability, while a second, inverted pyramid above seems to  willfully upend all such expectations, as if in portentous affirmation of the multidimensionality of the cosmos. Meanwhile, a blazingly chaotic miscellany of patterns unfolds across every available surface: stripes, checkerboards, circles, square, saw tooth edges, and rainbow arches – all fluctuating continually from crisp and neat to loose and sloppy, wavering and dripping. Imagine an Op art monograph put through a shredder and patched together again by an enthusiastic speed freak in the dark. A handful of smaller, triangular canvases, most hung point down like banners from the junction of the wall and the ceiling, complement the tumult with a touch of small-town car dealership festivity.


In another unusually entertaining artist statement, which was included in Porray's first show at the gallery, the artist offers a compelling take on the dystopic, neo-futurist, post apocalyptic landscape in painting – speculations that apply as neatly to this body of work as to the one he showed the previous year – before concluding: "But also, I feel strongly that the work should have real visual consequence – like, it should be a real fucking trip to stand in front of….super active and maybe even a bit nauseating – but definitely not shy or passive."  Shy or passive this work is not, indeed, and thank goodness. In his bold, if slightly mad attention to "visual consequence," Porray achieves what painting rarely attempts anymore: the creation of a world in which it is not only a pleasure but a thrill to lose oneself.


// Holly Myers




New American Paintings

Western Project's Brian Porray

By Ellen Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor

May 22, 2012


–(\DARKHOR5E/)–,  2012


The wide open space of Culver City’s WESTERN PROJECT is the perfect white-walled arena for Brian Porray’s (NAP #84 and #87) looming, neon, psychedelic architectural landscapes.


Walking into the gallery, the viewer is met with such massive, loud, and bright paintings that a really engaging and interactive experience begins immediately. Porray, who was born and raised in Las Vegas, based this entire solo show “–(\DARKHOR5E/)–” on his psychological interpretations of and experiences around the city’s Luxor Hotel.


Like the city itself, Porray’s works mimic and recall the overwhelming sights and sounds of Vegas, with neons so bright that we really need another word to aptly describe them. The central pyramidal or triangular theme is apparent immediately, but in each painting, different aspects of this city and architectural presence are drawn out or highlighted (as with works such as \/|L1NUS SP4CEH4DV/|/, /||BL4CK()UT||\, {3MPTYS3T}, or the show’s title piece –(\DARKHOR5E/)–.


Porray uses many mixed medium, paint, and collage techniques to create a loud and not entirely uniform surface that sometimes recalls computerized graphics from an 80’s computer.  At other times though, spray painted graffiti and detailed paintings bring the hand of the artist to the forefront, reminding us that these images are not fully digitized (as their cyperspace “leet” computer hacker titles might otherwise suggest).


With such massive paintings (the largest being 96” x 216” – or approximately 18 feet across), I always tend to hone in on very specific details of a work.  And this was definitely the case with Porray’s show.  I fell in love with little portions of the works where painting and pixels met.  Part collage, part painting, part psychedelic playground for your eyes, Porray’s works created magic, inescapable moments for me to dive into head first and experience at a heightened and surreal level.


The intensity of deep, rich, bright, and loudly colored archway next to the pyramid in “–+–H3AT D3V1L–+–” beckoned me to enter this mad world at least just for a bit. Like Alice’s rabbit hole, or Dorothy’s yellow brick road, Porray’s work calls to that inquisitive and insatiable side of youth.  And in fact, it seemed to me that the combined worlds of the “Wizard of Oz” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” reside somewhere in here. (Sometimes called the “Dark Side of Oz,” there is old lore that you can start watching a silenced “Wizard of Oz” to Pink Floyd’s album “Dark Side of the Moon” if you start the music when MGM’s lion sounds its third roar…) And something about Porray’s work recalled this same feeling, mode, and urge for psychological wanderings.


In a happenstance architectural coincidence or keenly intelligent installation move on the part of WESTERN PROJECT’s gallerists, Porray’s 36” equilateral untitled painted triangles mimic the shapes of the gallery’s geometric sunroof, creating another subtle moment of the show that I enjoyed immensely.


In short, Porray created a world that I wanted to explore and experience.  He shifted my views and perceptions, if only briefly one Friday afternoon.  My guess is that like Vegas, viewers will either love it or hate it.  But I definitely recommend giving both a chance to decide for yourself.


Brian Porray lives and works in Claremont, California and he is a 2012 Fellow at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art.  His work has been acquired by the Pizzuti Collection and has shown across the United States.

–(\DARKHOR5E/)– at WESTERN PROJECT through June 23rd.

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



by Charles M. Schultz

Essay from the catalog published in conjunction with the exhibition of the Joan Mitchell Foundation 2010 MFA Grant Recipients at the CUE Art Foundation Gallery in New York City, June 9 - July 30, 2011

Psychostimulant Supercluster, 2010

Brian Porray's abundantly colorful abstractions are similarly composed outside the realm of the brush stroke. Porray employs synthetic polymer, which is a particular type of acrylic paint with a soft body and low viscosity. It has the textural quality of spray paint but with a more concentrated color saturation. He uses the paint to build up a black and white grid pattern that recedes to a single point in space, and to add flourishes of color. On top of the grid, Porray collages patterned portions of paper that he pulls from a wide variety of sources. In Psychostimulant Supercluster (2010) the sheets of paper form an enormous multi-hued disc that commands the foreground. The disc might be expanding, retracting, exploding, or imploding; the moment is unresolved, and as consequence the space it describes seems at once infinite and immediate. Porray refers to this as an "astro-tweaker" aesthetic, calling attention to the two worlds from which he draws inspiration: cosmology (an outer space) and meth-addiction (an inner space). Not only are both prevalent practices in his native Las Vegas, but they inform Porray's artistic impulse to abandon himself totally to a material process and to focus his thinking on the abstract qualities of space and scale.