Kimberly Brooks: Brazen
Zevitas Marcus, Los Angeles
By Shana Nys Dambrot
Through October 28th
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.
Brooks uses a regal palette of tonal grey, dusty pink, heavy stone, silver, gold, and soft brown; its effect is like if “misty memory” was 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.
Closing reception and poetry reading October 29th: https://www.facebook.com/events/119417745427717/