Brian Rea: Avoid This

By Peggy Roalf   Friday July 17, 2020

As I navigate the uncertain terrain of Phase Two Opening in NYC, avoiding places and people I like, I try to avoid wondering how long the Virus will rule our lives. Worrying is out of the question: it does not help and most of the stuff we worry about never materializes after all.

So it was with a mixture of trepidation, pleasure and curiosity that I cracked the binding of a new book by Brian Rea: Avoid This.  Pleasure, because the binding is a joy to hold and behold: Pale gray linen with the hand-lettered title imprinted in black gloss varnish. Trepidation because of the warning label on the back cover that reads, “The world is a weird place. These situations should be avoided.” Curiosity won, as it always does.

In the Introduction, Brian relates how this project came to life—long before the COVID-19 pandemic took over. He tells about an incident that took place on a family car trip when he was a kid; it was so horrific and hilarious that it would be cruel to spoil it here, but this incident set the bar for ethics and absurdity for himself, his parents, and his two brothers. It was something that continued to creep into his thoughts at odd moments ever since, to the extent that he realized he might have a subject to explore in depth. 

Brian writes, “…like all of us, I have been plenty guilty of poor judgement—embarrassing dance moves, various overindulgences, or unfortunate fashion choices. All such episodes can be avoided, but some extend way beyond questionable personal decisions. They can also include uncomfortable situations, surreal circumstances, and, of course, the antics of strange people (awkward, creepy, sinister, or otherwise.)” 

He continues, “Avoid This started as a drawing exercise I did each morning for about a year. I’d wake up and sketch things that made me uncomfortable or laugh—some I observed; others I invented. The idea was always more important than the execution….I posted the drawings on Instagram—one per day—and the comments ran the gamut from shock…to support. These strong reactions made me think that the audience not only wanted to see more, but also needed to see more. It seemed like a collective hope that we all look more closely at what’s happening around us.” Words to live by, so feast your eyes here on what to avoid. 

Avoid This (Princeton Architectural Press 2020) by Brian Rea can be pre-ordered for fall delivery. Landing page photo © Taller Lores

Brian Rea produces drawings and paintings for magazines, murals, fashion and film projects around the world. His work has been exhibited in Paris, New York, Seoul, Los Angeles, and Barcelona at the Fundacio Joan Miro. He is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Art Center College of Design and a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, his son, and his plants, and is a long-time supporter of



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