Snap, Crackle, Pop: Kyle Bravo at The Front

Installation view of Kyle Bravo's "As It Was in the Beginning Is Now and Ever Shall Be" at The Front in New Orleans. Photo by Jonathan Traviesa.

Kyle Bravo
The Front
4100 St. Claude Avenue
March 8–April 6, 2014

An enormous, white, labyrinthian painting covers one gallery wall. Traced in thick black lines and set against a cheerful shade of pink, Maze looks like a giant pulsing brain. Across the room, a series of wallpapered screen prints form a web of bright geometric shapes. Kyle Bravo’s complex designs seem to allow any individual print to connect to any other in a potentially infinite and interchangeable puzzle. This playful approach to space and color soon makes its way into absurdist territory. What could have started as doodles on a napkin become sculptural wood cutouts in shades most at home in a crayon box: vibrant orchid, banana yellow, and magenta. Some of the cartoonish shapes resemble droll office supplies while others feel like truly strange contraptions that could buzz and whirr right off the wall at any moment.

Bravo pushes this threat of movement further with Shaky Boxes, a collaboration with fellow artist (and Bravo’s wife) Jenny LeBlanc, which sends persistent thumps from a mountain of cardboard boxes painted in teal and pink. With each bump and pop, the urge to open a box and see what animates it grows stronger. There’s a gleeful, menacing sense of anticipation like right before a jack-in-the-box springs to life. It’s hard in these moments not to feel like Bravo is fucking with us. And in part he is. There, overhead, the artist has scrawled a black-and-white self-portrait in his distinctive hand—it’s Bravo overlooking the feverish, busy little world he’s created.