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I Notice People Disappear



I Notice People Disappear

ARTHOUSE 429 West Palm Beach, FL

ESSAY Bruce Helander


Sowing Seeds I have followed the development of Kimberly Brooks’ work for several years, and was pleased for an opportunity to curate this ambitious new series of paintings at ArtHouse 429 in West Palm Beach. In this catalog essay, I endeavor to offer the reader an opportunity to gain an intimate perspective on the evolution of Brooks’ singular style and the maturity of her thoughtful approach to picture-making. It is clear to me that the artist’s virtual rising star is more like a rare comet, coming right at us unexpectedly and we may not be fully prepared for, nor recognize at first, the complex chemistry. Robert Rauschenberg once told me years ago during a conversation in his Captiva Island studio that virtually nothing can replace hard work (he was a workaholic and night owl) in securing the course that you sustain for a lifetime. I begin with this anecdote because from the evidence I see, diligent labor, taking chances, coupled with natural talent are the simple common denominators that shape Kimberly Brooks’ voice and mastery evident this latest exhibition “I Notice People Disappear”. Brooks gathers and surrounds herself with inspirations from history, literature, contemporary life, costume, subliminal sexuality, and her travels to create a singular cohesive and surprising narrative visual statement. Formative ideas drift in the wind like cottonseeds spinning their blades in all directions until they claim a hard-earned spot in which to grow and mature. I am, in fact, reminded of The Sower (1850), Jean-François Millet’s masterful painting on permanent display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. It is not only a great metaphorical image, but also shares a distant relationship with some of Brooks’ figurative ingenuity and integrity. In this case, the propagating planter symbolizes the artist tossing out compositional ‘seed pods’ in all directions, which ultimately break new ground and spring to life on the canvas.


The Sower, Jean-Franรงois Millet, 1850 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


An inside studio view offers a distinct perspective on the complexities and personal triumphs of finding her way through trial and error. Brooks takes calculated risks like a respectable laboratory technician-- testing theories, mixing together liquids, investigating textures and tints, making notations, limiting the amount of time to lay down the brushwork so it stays loose— until a recognizable and consistent personality surfaces. Upon previewing these new images, Brooks has indeed found her way through a process of discovery for inventing a unique decipherable style of picture making that respectively takes cues from other artists and writers then takes it to a new level wholly her own. These are particularly evident in her interiors such as Parlour Room, where a magical illumination of sunlight enters the room through the precise application of paint. A gowned figure gazes across a now empty space while a transparent second figure (is it a servant?) kneels in the foreground. Pink Salon, a masterpiece, offers its complicated, voyeuristic view of a lady in white lace lying regally on a sofa below a sensational abstracted re-creation of a majestic painting within a painting that the Louvre Museum could inherit. The enchantment here is in the little details: an invisible glass flower jar with delicate brushstrokes evoking white lilies, a levitating candelabra, the large frame made with dashes of decorative hieroglyphics; and nearby little hints of another thin sliver of vertical light that casts a ghostly shadow. Brooks articulates the slash of exterior light with a single stroke, as economically as a writer would with a well-chosen word. I am reminded of Adolph Menzel, the versatile realist painter of historic paintings, landscapes and informal treatments of interior spaces with single figures (see: Living-Room with the Artist’s Sister, 1847), who utilizes feathery, nearly phantom like brushstrokes, which Brooks also has clearly mastered and folded comfortably into her oeuvre.


It takes an artist to know and artist. And I can assure the reader that creative maturity doesn’t evolve exclusively from some intuitive DNA gift, although that might help move things along, but through an unwavering structured daily schedule and it is in this crucible of diligence where the mind can lift into a new dimension. In Brooks’ case, this exclusive studio and workplace in Venice is an unofficial bibliotheca, where hundreds of ideas, potential titles, magazine clippings and pencil sketches go down in a paper playbook to be snipped, erased, rearranged and photocopied, developing into a cohesive collection of preliminary “blueprints” whose segmented images will eventually find themselves transfixed to a nearby wall. The collected images from contemporary artists range from Wilhelm Sasnal (his dealings with memory), Daniel Richter (imaginary and allegorical worlds), Herbert Brandl (the way he handles abstraction) and Elizabeth Peyton’s for her historical figures and to a degree her delicate, feminine hand). The light-filled converted garage reveals a professional no-frills environment that immediately offers raw proof of a straightforward facility with only one purpose. Even small works in progress are still carefully and evenly spaced near the floorboards, which give the paintings respect and added emphasis. Larger pieces are hidden behind a canvas curtain, not to be disturbed until the artist decides to reveal them. The studio is orderly and minimal, so that any clutter does not compete with appreciating the images. A recent visit to Ross Bleckner’s Chelsea studio revealed a similar kind of charismatic integrity of keeping everything clean and neat, with all efforts to support works in progress with obvious parallels to Brooks’ efforts to make everything perfectly clear. A painting that caught my eye during a first visit proves to be pivotal in her work and also bears the name of the show, I Notice People Disappear (collection of the Coral Springs Museum of Art). Created before this series


was begun, this image shows two figures against a translucent background and where the artist began to erase strategic pieces of an arrangement to produce a fading illusion for the first time. In her previous works, “Mom’s Friends” (2007), she focused on images of her childhood growing up in Mill Valley, the facial features are visible and nostalgic. In “Thread” (2011) her work becomes noticeably more abstract and deconstructs the portraiture where faces and folds are not so clearly rendered. In “I Notice People Disappear”, the exhibition, the faces are not just featureless but the bodies often disappear altogether leaving the shell of costume as if reanimating a mannequin against an ethereal blackened background. Clearly inspired by others who uncovered a pathway to invention and singularity, Brooks’ muses are radically varied, including legendary pioneers like Picasso points to African masks; Modigliani to Toulouse-Lautrec; Gauguin to Pissarro; John Currin to Courbet; and, if I might add myself, Helander to Joseph Cornell and Kurt Schwitters’ collages. It helps also to know that before studying painting at UCLA and the Otis Institute, Brooks received her B.A. in English Literature from UC Berkeley where she had the opportunity to study and absorb all three volumes of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. His stream of consciousness style and introduction of involuntary memory, not just of his own life, but those of other characters, left a lasting impression. To wit, Marcel Proust bites into a madeleine at his grandmother’s house and a moment from his early childhood comes flooding toward him, and then the record needle skips to a different song, and he spends the rest of the volume on another man’s life, that of M.Charles Swan, an older family friend of his father. The idea that memory has a liquidity to it; that an image, like a madeleine, can flood the mind not just of one’s own past but from another’s and from another time, is key to understanding the inspiration behind the works in “I Notice People Disappear”.


“When from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.” - “In Search of Lost Time”, Marcel Proust But while an artist can and should arm herself with academic references and stimulating motivations and an inquisitive mind, for a serious, well-educated painter, all these disparate elements need to come together at once and straight through the very tip of an artist’s brush proscribed by memory and incident, because when the sable hits the table she’s on her own. In this fascinating exhibition, she takes control and captures a world of guilty pictorial pleasures, from opulent interiors and hazy landscapes in a new way. In doing so, she lays down an eccentrically handsome collection of quasi-surrealist strokes inducing the sensation of reliving a vintage portrait snapped from another time, like a recollection of sitting next to a dapper dinner guest at a black tie event and wondering about his ancestry. In this stimulating anthology of works, accented with Indian spice, Payne’s gray, burnt sienna, rouge orange, and Prussian blue, Kimberly Brooks has proved that she has the ability to fearlessly continue to create a de facto framed storyboard that turns into a wonderful and handsomely genuine “disappearing act” of picture-making that is filled with mystery and antiquity.


Bruce Helander West Palm Beach

When from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.� - Marcel Proust

Maiden / Landscape 12 x 15 in., Oil on Linen, 2013


Castle Grounds 36 x 48 in., Oil on Linen, 2013


The Long Goodbye 30 x 30 in., Oil on Linen, 2013



Fever Dream Oil on Linen, 2013

Mahogoney Lament Oil on Linen, 2013


Parlour Room 36 x 48 in., Oil on Linen, 2013


Blue Drawing Room 32 x 40 in., Oil on Linen, 2014


Pink Assembly 20 x 24 in., Oil on Linen, 2013

Forgotten Princess 16 x 12 in., Oil on Linen, 2013



The Banquet, Study 20 x 16 in., Oil on Linen, 2013

Opposing page: The Banquet 60 x 48 in., Oil on Linen 2013

Pink Salon 36 x 48 in., Oil on Linen, 2013


Consuela 16 x 12 in., Oil on Linen, 2013


Rose Palace 60 x 48 in., Oil on Linen 2013


The Myth of What Happened by the Tree and the River 30 x 30 in., Oil on Linen, 2013 ,

The Memory of the Banquet 20 x 20 in., Oil on Linen, 2013





Harem 24 x 30 in., Oil on Linen, 2013



Family Tree 24 x 18 in., Oil on Linen, 2013

WORKS 2010-2012


I Notice People Disappear 24 x 18 in., Oil on Linen, 2012

The Pretending 20 x 16 in., Oil on Linen, 2012



The Victorian 50 x 30 in., Oil on Linen, 2011

Amy Fine Collins 9 x 12 in., Oil on Linen, 2011


Punk History 9 x 12 in., Oil on Linen, 2011


Soho House Oil on Linen, 44 x 36 in., 2011

Elizabeth Stewart Oil on Linen, 30 x 24 in., 2010


Kimberly Brooks was born in New York City and spent her childhood in Mill Valley, California before attending and receiving her B.A. in Literature from UC Berkeley. From there she moved to Los Angeles where she studied painting at the Otis School of Art and Design and UCLA. In her paintings, Brooks blends figuration and abstraction to explore a variety of subjects dealing with memory, history and identity. Brooks has had numerous solo shows in Los Angeles at Risk Press Gallery The Whole Story 2006, Taylor De Cordoba Gallery, Momâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Friends 2007, Technicolor Summer 2008, The Stylist Project 2010 and Thread 2011. She has participated in group exhibitions at numerous galleries and museums in California and New York, including White Box Contemporary of San Diego, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, LA><ART and the City Museum of New York, respectively. Brooks paintings have also been showcased in numerous juried exhibitions with artist curators including Chris Burden, Mira Schor and Museum curators from the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Modern Art, California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Brooks lives in Los Angeles and works out of her studio in Venice California.


K I M B E R LY B R O O K S I Notice People Disappear Feb 6 - March 6, 2014 ArtHouse 429 Gallery Publisher: EverBook Press Design: Lightray Production Design: Valerie Petrarca Photography: Susan Einstein Printing: Art Market, Fine Art Publishing First Edition, Jan 2014 Printed in the United States All Images Š Kimberly Brooks 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. ISBN 978-0-9882831-5-2 ArtHouse 429 429 25th Street West Palm Beach, Florida T: 561.231.0429

KIMBERLY BROOKS: I Notice People Disappear  
KIMBERLY BROOKS: I Notice People Disappear  

This catalog is published in conjunction with the exhibition: KIMBERLY BROOKS: I Notice People Disappear February 6 - *Extended to March 15...