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Art review: 'Brian Bress: Under Performing' at Cherry and Martin

January 12, 2012 |  7:00 pm

Brian Bress
The multipurpose nuttiness that ran riotously through Brian Bress’ exhibition three years ago is tamped down and polished up in “Under Performing.”  The L.A. artist’s two-part show at Cherry and Martin struggles and sputters, sometimes transforming nonsense into serenity while at other times getting stuck in smart-aleck sarcasm.

Projected on a wall in the first gallery is “Creative Ideas for Every Season,” a 20-minute road movie that relies too heavily on a script based on Agnes Martin’s rambling writings. The dialogue is a mix of clichés and wisdom, earnestness and stupidity. Too often it comes off as a repackaged rehash of image-and-text conceptualism, its words called on to do more than they can manage and its visuals short-shrifted.

Bress is at his best with DIY sets, costumes and props, as well as with raucously collaged backdrops, preposterous dream sequences and whiplash edits. All are overshadowed by the streamlined stylization of his frugal movie, which smooths over the rough edges necessary for him to strut his stuff.

The eight works in the second gallery are also digital videos. Each flat-screen monitor hangs on the wall like a painting and sports a custom frame. Narrative slows down to a crawl. Scenes do not change. Nor do camera angles. And the characters pretty much just stand there, as if they inhabit tableaux vivants gone wrong. Weirdness gives way to something like tranquillity, which doesn’t come easy and keeps you attentive to every little detail.

More art reviews from the Los Angeles Times.

-- David Pagel

Cherry and Martin, 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd., (310) 559-0100, through Feb. 25. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Image: Brian Bress, still from "Creative Ideas for Every Season," 2010. Credit: From Cherry and Martin