“Painted with nonchalant virtuosity, filled with delicious little details and flick-of-the wrist flourishes that are never precious but are well worth savoring. All are animated by a wide-eyed sense of discovery,” writes David Pagel in the Los Angeles Times about Edgar Bryan’s paintings. “Sweet, sharp meditations” is how Roberta Smith describes them in her New York Times review of Bryan’s first New York solo show at Zach Feuer Gallery in 2008.
Bryan was born in 1970 in Birmingham, Alabama, and was an illustrator in the United States Air Force for five years before receiving his BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1998. As he recalled, “I painted murals of proud airmen and women, and I designed logos for the Air Force in Europe. I also did illustrations of the Berlin Wall coming down, since I arrived in Europe soon after it fell.” Later, in 2001, he earned an MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Influenced by classical portraiture and still-life, Bryan reinvents these genres with a casual, hip approach using reoccurring motifs of vinyl records, bicycles, and other plebian details, sometimes incorporating himself into the picture. In Self-Portrait (2008) the artist is happily working at a toy easel, making abstract brush marks and holding a painter’s traditional palette. In The Last of the Famous International Playboys(2005), a man sleeps with his sneakers kicked off, among marshmallow colored records, tapes, and vinyl slip covers. Everything inside the picture appears to be weightless and floating.
Bryan shows his subtle humor in Nearly Meeting in the Museum II (2006) where two bookish, slightly melancholic, endearing figures, occupy either side of a museum bench—between them is a marble statue of two lovers in rapture. “When I am making a figure, I always come to two roads—I can make it sympathetic or I can make it funny and make it reflect back on the viewer. I usually choose the second; a little bit of humor,” said Bryan.
Bryan had a solo show in 2005 at c/o Atle Gerhardsen, Berlin, followed by solo shows in 2006 at Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Galleria Il Capricorno, Venice, Italy. The stain-like quality of his paintings exhibited at Zach Feuer Gallery in 2008, reverberates in his three spite-bite etchings made at Crown Point Press that same year. “It’s about the way the objects and people in the pictures feel: grounded and present, if slightly akimbo; not misty, wispy, or super-styled,” wrote Kathan Brown in Overview about Bryan’s prints. She continued, “There are other artists out there right now making reputations by not being grandiose. But many of their pictures vaporize in the mind after a short time. Edgar Bryan’s work, in my mind at least, is here to stay.”
He has participated in group shows at White Columns, New York; the UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London. His paintings are in the collections of the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria. Edgar Bryan currently lives and works in Los Angeles. He is represented by Regen Projects, Los Angeles.
-Dana Zullo, Crown Point Pres