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Kimberly Brooks: Fever Dreams Copyright © 2019 Griffith Moon. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be duplicated or transmitted in any form without prior written consent from the artist. Displaying such material without prior permission is a violation of international copyright laws. An exhibition catalogue, published in conjunction with Kimberly Brooks’ 2018 Exhibition at Mt San Antonio College (Mt. SAC). Acknowledgements and deep appreciation to Fatemeh Burnes, Cynthia Orr, Michael Weiss, Shana Nys Dambrot, Heather Sue Walters and all the people at Mt SAC who contributed to making this exhibition and book happen. Cover Image: Los Angeles Detail Cover Design: Sara Martinez Book Layout and Typesetting by Heather Sue Walters Printed in the United States of America First Printing, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-7326992-1-2 Library of Congress: 2018958240 Published by Griffith Moon Santa Monica, California www.GriffithMoon.com


K I M B E R LY B R O O K S Fever Dreams

Mt. San Antonio College


Envisioning Space, Past and Presence Michael Wilson In the art of Kimberly Brooks, reality dances, tantalizingly, just out of reach. The interiors and landscapes of her paintings are lush, seductive, but impossible to occupy; while stocked with familiar aesthetic cues, they feel hallucinatory, displaced not only from the here and now but even from the historical circumstances they mimic. What Brooks depicts are not people and places but our fractured memories or visions of them; idealized and incomplete, they’re closer to ghosts or visions than to reliable documents. Crossing and recrossing the line between figuration and abstraction—both in the transition from one body of work and another, and within individual pieces—Brooks distills the essence of moments past to transport us outside of lived time. Even when the figures depicted are those of her own family, or when the locations belong to shared narratives, they retain an air of fantasy. “Fever Dreams” juxtaposes new large paintings by Brooks with smaller canvases and works on paper made over the past 15 years. Seen together, they underscore both a remarkable consistency and an ongoing, even accelerating, development in the artist’s practice as she moves from series to series, show to show. As subjects and materials shift in and out of focus, so larger thematic connections emerge; one might readily pair the work made for two exhibitions in 2007 and 2008, for example, both of which draw on the artist’s family history while approaching it with different emphases, and in subtly different styles. There are formal and atmospheric through lines, too; a love for the decorative and the architectural, for nature both wild and manicured, and for images within images, frames within frames. The oil and gouache paintings that Brooks made for her exhibition “Mom’s Friends” at Taylor de Cordoba in Los Angeles, for example, riff on the formal


conventions of their snapshot sources—their all-smiles subjects and artless compositions—to focus on the artist’s mother and her glamorous entourage. The images immerse us effortlessly in the stylish social whirl of 1960s and ’70s Marin County. But there’s more to the project than simple nostalgia; in their exclusion of men, they present an explicitly feminist take on identity politics, filtering ideas about the perceived role and status of women through the vicissitudes of memory. The following year’s “Technicolor Summer” at the same gallery also drew heavily on private albums, but in these works the jollity of vacationing is overshadowed by Brooks’s father having been diagnosed with a terminal illness, lending each recorded moment a particular emotional weight. In both of these series, as in later works, Brooks’ light touch is key. Her brushwork is never too dense. Detail is kept in check, and there’s a sensitivity to pattern and surface. Yet far from emptying the work of content, this apparent airiness finally allows more space for conceptual and psychological nuance. In subsequent series, Brooks continues to fuse ornamental luxe, calme, et volupté with intellectual subtlety. “The Stylist Project” (2010), for example, is a set of portraits of fashion stylists and designers that was inspired in part by a lecture on the influence that two iconic figures from that world, Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli, had on Henri Matisse. While their immediate visual realm is, then, that of haute couture, these paintings are ultimately concerned with the origins and dissemination of visual culture at large, with how it finds its way from creator to creator, audience to audience—sometimes across the boundaries of discipline. (Brooks occupied the same world in “Thread” at de Cordoba in 2011, continuing to interrogate female beauty and dress through a darker, slightly more abstracted take on portraiture.) In more recent works, Brooks borrows even more explicitly from historical record, adapting scenes from time past while abstracting their documentary content just enough to allow for new, more playful interpretation. These are not, then, exercises in history painting per se, but something more ambiguous and atmospheric. As in the artist’s earlier works, rich clothing and grandiose architecture abound, but are again undercut by intimations of desire and loss, of beauty shadowed by the uncanny. Even relatively straightforward images that part-mirror actual individuals or events threaten to collapse back into pure mark-making. Try to place the fuzzedout faces of Prince or The Great Raj, for example, or locate either military strategy or blood-and-guts in the unexpectedly lovely synchrony of Ancient Battle. Through this kind of soft distortion, Brooks assembles a quiet critique of power, stressing her sources’ common ground by lending their iconography a near-universal register. Broadly resonant too is Brooks’ use of gold and silver leaf, which made their first appearance in her work for 2017’s “Brazen” at Zevitas Marcus Gallery in Los


Bel Air

104 x 24 in. Oil on linen 8


Angeles. These materials—”genuine” yet literally superficial—offer a critique of wealth that’s also still half in love with its subject. Even in this form, there’s no denying the mystique of these metals, the sheen of fantasy that they bring to Brooks’ ceilings and portals, frames and altars; titles like Lightness of Being seem to underscore their dazzling effect. And there’s an echo in works such as Portrait Hall and Russian Room of the oneiric labyrinth that makes up the grand hotel in Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad (L’année dernière à Marienbad, 1962), a comparable sense of romantic extravagance fatally undercut by melancholia. Ultimately, even paintings themselves become props in Brooks’ conjured realm, signifiers of status and windows into different lives and times. The pictures rendered in Near and Far and Hall of Eternity, for example, occupy a self-reflexive world of images that acquire an unsettling equivalence with the interiors in which they hang. What part of this, if any, can be considered “real,” or is it all representation? (Answers: all of it, and yes.) There’s a Russian-doll feeling to works like Remembrance that suggests we’re looking at just one part of an endless succession or cycle of depictions, and that we may never arrive at a final, definitive version. Brooks’ dream—one in which, typically, the concrete meets the ethereal, the image meets its distorted reflection—is one that recurs. Ultimately, even paintings themselves become props in Brooks’s conjured realm, signifiers of status and windows into different lives and times. The pictures rendered in Near and Far and Hall of Eternity, for example, occupy a self-reflexive world of images that acquire an unsettling equivalence with the interiors in which they hang. What part of this, if any, can be considered “real,” or is it all representation? (Answers: all of it, and yes.) There’s a Russian-doll feeling to works like Remembrance that suggests we’re looking at just one part of an endless succession or cycle of depictions, and that we may never arrive at a final, definitive version. Brooks’s dream—one in which, typically, the concrete meets the ethereal, the image meets its distorted reflection—is one that recurs. Michael Wilson Brooklyn, 2018


Reverence and Dissolution Shana Nys Dambrot Choreographing abstraction and figuration to operate within a single image is always really a balancing act. A purportedly non-figurative composition can, by design or by neurological/optic impulse, seem to be tugging at or flirting with imagery, like a mystery wanting to be solved or a whisper straining to be heard. Or, as in the case of painter Kimberly Brooks, a familiar world can threaten to dissolve, assemble itself, and fly apart again before your very eyes, eluding fixed resolutions even under the most deliberately directed gaze. The finite edges of rooms and things go all wobbly, even as the focal plane and pictorial space tightens up around them. Patterns become organic, architecture becomes schematic, people become motifs, some things shine diffuse like fog-lights, doors to curving passageways are left ajar. Brooks’ love of narrative unfolds in tandem both in her image content, and in her representational style as well, in that not only the literary spark of her scenarios but also the riddle of her technique are ripe for exegesis. Each of her relatively small-scale canvases is either a portrait — well, it’s a painting of a portrait, which is not exactly the same thing as a portrait — or else it’s a setting, an empty stage temporarily bereft of a drama. The whole show is a continuum of rooms in the same castle, a stronghold playing itself in a drama of standoffish, atmospheric objects. Even the historical paintings inside her work are themselves treated as objects belonging to the universe they occupy, so they get the same treatment as everything else around them. There are paintings of salon walls, installed in the gallery as a salon wall. The allegory of luxury and refinement is itself a target of both reverence and dissolution in a broader cultural sense, in the same interpretive way as its trappings are physically rendered within the paintings themselves. For the 19th century, it’s very meta.


Many of the new works in this extended series depict the edificial exteriors and adjacent landscapes of her allegorical estates. Often these outsides are augmented, decorated, and party concealed by a range of plants, foliage, tree-cover, and manicured garden imagery from the regal to the tropical. In generating her suggestions of these elements, Brooks employs a more jewel tone-inflected palette with shimmering notes and eccentric oases of luminous, deep mint and mediated, ash-dusted periwinkle. This is a citation to the colors of hand-painted antique wallpaper, familiar to fans of the Frick, and Versailles, and which itself often shows stylized landscapes and scenic picturesques. In Brooks’ works “Lagoon” and “Los Angeles”, it becomes impossible to be certain if one is regarding a landscape painting, or a painting of a landscape painting, but one is lured to attempt to resolve the mystery in any case. The beauty and the strangeness just will not let you be. In the more stolidly architectural elements of her work, Brooks considers the metaphysical implications of the transom as both a place and a condition of the psyche. Exterior entry points like doors and gates and interior doorways between chambers are frequently placed at the perspectival, focal heart of her compositions, with the rest of the picture plane left hotly engaged in a dissolution of its own precision. In the interior spaces such as “Russian Room” and “Chandelier”, Brooks uses a regal palette of tonal grey, dusty pink, heavy stone, silver, gold, and soft brown; its effect is like if “misty memory” were an optical filter, and yet it is quite cool emotionally. The brightness of metallic leaf and recurring motifs of arches, doors, windows, paintings, textiles, tapestries, pochoir, marquetry, and marble represent without replicating the gorgeously overwrought things of immense decorative beauty that defined their time. Conceptual and abstract, this mediation of the art historical discourse speaks to the necessity for the valuable to be unprecious, for pretense and privilege to be openly critiqued, for the eye of the artist to outweigh the conventional taste — to be both beautiful and brazen inside a modern algorithm of beauty, eccentricity, individuality, and engagement. The drips inside the paintings are the most overt interjections of wit and artifice. They break the proverbial fourth wall, as though saying to the audience, “See what I did there?”, a reminder that we are there not only to look, but to think as well. Shana Nys Dambrot Los Angeles, 2018


Los Angeles

60 x 48 in. Oil on Linen


Bel Air

52 x 50 in. diptych Oil on Linen


Chandelier

60 x 48 in. Oil, Gold on Linen


Georgina

60 x 52 in. Oil, Gold on Linen


Jerusalem

60 x 52 in. Oil, Gold and Silver on Linen


The Getty

40 x 60 in. Oil on Linen


Fawn

44 x 36 in. Oil on Linen


The Looking Glass, Part I Triptych 72 x 110 in. Oil, Silver on Linen


Russian Room

42 x 36 in. Oil, Gold and Silver on Linen


Two Portraits

32 x 24 in. Oil, Gold on Linen


Frame 1

20 x 16 in. Oil, Gold on Linen


Green Room

44 x 36 in. Oil, Gold and Silver on Linen


Lagoon

44 x 36 in. Oil on Linen


Altar

30 x 24 in. Oil, Gold on Linen


Triptych

44 x 36 in. Oil, Gold on Linen


Line Drawing 3

30 x 24 in. Oil, Gold on Linen


I Have a King

50 x 30 in. Oil, Gold on Linen


Frame 2

20 x 16 in. Oil, Gold on Linen


A Case for Monarchy

60 x 48 in. Oil, Gold and Silver on Linen


Castle Tapestry

44 x 36 in. Oil, Gold on Linen


Polo Players

36 x 60 in. Oil on Linen


Grey Forest

20 x 16 in. Oil, Silver on Linen


High Tea

60 x 28 in. Oil on Linen


Ancient Battle 36 x 36 in. Oil on Linen


The Myth of What Happened by the Tree and the River 36 x 36 in. Oil on Linen


Installations


Works on Paper 2006 – 17


Arrival

16 x 12 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Tire Swing

9 x 12 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Mill Valley

9 x 12 in. Watercolor on paper


Earliest Memories

16 x12 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Best Friends

9 x12 in. Watercolor on paper


Best Friends 2

12 x 16 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


White Scarf

16 x 12 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Cocktail Party 1

9 x 12 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Cocktail Party 2

9 x 12 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Farrah Hair

9 x 12 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Yosemite River

12 x 9 in. Watercolor on paper


Malibu

9 x 12 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Jamie Grey

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Maui

9 x 12 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Elizabeth

9 x 12 in. Watercolor and gouche on paper


Joshua Tree

9 x 12 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Alisal Dock

16 x 12 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Tecchnicolor Summer 12 x 9 in. Watercolor on paper


Canon Drive

12 x 9 in. Watercolor on paper


Hayride

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Lauren’s Room

9 x 12 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Picnic

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Aspen

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Map

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Sacrifice

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Blue Angles

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


True Stories

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Birds

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Letter

12 x 9 in. Watercolor on paper


Picture Frames

12 x 9 in. Watercolor on paper


Green Dots

12 x 9 in. Watercolor on paper


Sunshine

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Paris

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Balancing Act

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Fall Wardrobe

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Big Bang

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Kimono

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Tokyo

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Childhood

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Utah

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Angels

12 x 9 in. Watercolor and gouache on paper


Profile for Griffith Moon Publishing

Kimberly Brooks | Fever Dreams  

Kimberly Brooks | Fever Dreams