Will Bruno: From a Distance, The World

SMART OBJECTS is pleased to present From a Distance, The World, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Will Bruno.

Working between the methods of en plein air, figurative studio painting, and paneled comics, Bruno’s work depicts a near future that is both lush and dystopian, surreal and eminently recognizable. Each painting is begun en plein air, often with two halves of the same canvas bearing distinct but complementary settings. Bruno finds inspiration in the familiar landscapes of the American West, scenes one might find on an aimless drive down old county highways or a hike on public lands.

Yet the idyllic realism of these plein air renderings is frequently undermined by the addition of surreal figures, mythical beasts, and distorted and repetitive imagery. Some cite specific works of art: the figure in From a Distance, The World is modeled after the youthful protagonist of the animated ecological parable The Butterfly by the Russian filmmaker Andrei Khrjanovsky, while Resting in the Tributary contains a loose sketch from memory of John Everett Millais’ Ophelia. Others are populated by a mysterious cast of characters who might be circus performers, explorers, holy figures, or gods of antiquity, gesturing towards the planes of myth or dream.

Borrowing the paneled format of comic books, Bruno’s paintings possess an evident narrative quality, their preoccupation with ecology and the degradation of the natural world influenced by the speculative world-building of literary touchstones such as Edward Abbey, Ursula K. Le Guin, and William Gibson. Yet as much as Bruno’s dystopian visions convey collective / environmental anxieties, his rich allegorical landscapes conjure a reverence and concern meant to accompany the viewer outside of the gallery. His work has recently been exhibited in Night Swim at Good Naked Gallery in New York, Spring Break Art Show with Desert Center Los Angeles, and Hormone High at Alone Time Gallery in New Orleans. He received a BA in Studio Arts from Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA, and an MFA from Portland State University, Portland, OR. Bruno is currently finishing a comic book, the Sick Earth Catalog. He lives and works in Abiquiú, NM.