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Christopher Smith

There’s a big pile of optimism on the floor of Brian Porray’s studio—25 pieces of plywood, neatly stacked. It’s early June, and they’re awaiting a long summer of meticulous sprays and dabs of paint that will turn them into art. Even if that’s not an exceptional workload for a UNLV master of fine art student, the promise it contains is. There’s a sense that Porray has turned the corner. He seems to be on to something. There’s evidence in the few paintings he’s already completed in the series. Take “None of This Is Actually Happening,” whose neon-bright particles appear to be getting sucked into the canvas, leaving nothing behind. It’s like that whirl of surrealism during the split second you’re whipped upside-down in a roller coaster. In the painting, though, the moment of movement is frozen, giving you time to contemplate the familiar world morphed into a kaleidoscope of shapes and colors. The effect is beautiful, thrilling, even a little dizzying. Porray likes the sound of that last word, and he suspects this new effect—“images wildly receding backward”—is “a direct result of getting a firm grip on how to put the geometry together in a much more dramatic way.” And so the 30-year-old artist will keep pushing this direction with what he calls his “digital rococo acid-trip landscapes,” refining his angles in effort to achieve more acceleration, more drama, more of whatever effect might surface in the process. “This summer,” Porray says, “I’m just taking the aesthetics for a ride.”

Marty Walsh, the artist’s rep, felt a little bump in the road not long before. Three of Porray’s paintings that she hung in Paymon’s Mediterranean Bistro at the Arts Factory seemed to be a detour from recent progress. “They felt a little transitional,” she says. They are certainly OK enough for public display. They are of the same caliber as Porray’s recent public commissions, such as his sublime take on the Landmark hotel implosion for Clark County’s centennial mural project. They have the same color intensity that inspired the British design magazine Candid to include Porray in its spring “Who to Watch” roundup and refer to his paintings as “eye-popping,” and for the upcoming issue of New American Paintings (which calls itself “a juried exhibition-in-print”) to spotlight his work alongside that of 40 other painters in the West. But when Walsh visited Porray’s studio in June and saw a large new work called “Police John, Police Red,” she didn’t bother to shade her critique: “That painting rocks my world!” She felt the motion, and that the paintings were in sync with what had originally motivated Walsh to devote her Trifecta Gallery to a sort of Brian Porray coming-out party in September. Though she usually doesn’t bother—or bother with—graduate students while they’re finding their way, Porray is the exception. He’s ready. She calls him “the perfect storm,” with all conditions right for emergence. S e p t e m b e r - O c t o b e r 2 0 0 9 D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n   41

Desert Companion - Fall 2009