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Saturday, April 29, 2017
Van Doren Waxter Presents "James Brooks: Familiar World 1942 - 1982" (NYC)
P, 1952, Oil on muslin, 21 x 16 inches (53.3 x 40.6 cm)
think my whole tendency has been away from a fast moving line either
violent or lyrical into something that is slower and denser and more
wandering and unknowing
–– James Brooks
Van Doren Waxter is pleased to present James Brooks: Familiar World 1942 – 1982,
an exhibition of small-scale paintings by the masterful Abstract
Expressionist James Brooks. On view from May 3 through June 23, 2017,
this historic survey traces the evolution of the artist’s career over a
period spanning four decades.
Brooks (1906–1992) began his career as an artist during the Great
Depression, moving to New York City in 1926, where he worked as a
muralist under the Works Progress Administration and studied
representational painting at the Art Students League. His career as an
artist was briefly disrupted when he was drafted to serve in the United
States Army as an Art Correspondent in the Middle East in 1942. Brooks’
time in the Middle East directly coincided with the rise of Abstract
Expressionism as an established movement in the United States. Upon
returning to New York in 1945, Brooks turned away from representational
painting toward abstraction, drawing inspiration from his friendships
with peers such as Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston, and Bradley Walker
the mid-1940s, Brooks’ work was largely influenced by the synthetic
Cubism of Picasso and Braque, which is most apparent in the composition
of his early paintings, such as Bad Intentions (c. 1942-43) and Christmas Fantasy (1946).
Over time Brooks became increasingly inspired by the Surrealists, in
particular their preoccupation with using art as a means of accessing
the unconscious. While paintings such as Z (1954) may suggest
to the viewer landscapes or other natural forms, Brooks claimed, “It
never occurs to me in painting that I am taking either from nature or
manufacture; everything pools into one source, I suppose, and is
unconsciously drawn on."
known for his restrained approach to creating rhythmic, Abstract
Expressionist paintings, Brooks’ most inventive practice developed out
of a chance discovery, when he accidentally dripped paint onto the
reverse of an absorbent Bemis cloth to discover fragmentary forms had
seeped through on the front. Finding these stains to be more visually
compelling than what was originally painted on the front, Brooks would
employ this method throughout the his career, applying paint onto the
reverse of absorbent cloth and squeeging the paint with cardboard.
similar working methods to those of his contemporaries—such as the
spontaneous drip paintings of Pollock—Brooks adapted his process through
a range of more mannered techniques. Rather than dripping paint
directly onto an entire canvas in the manner of Pollock, Brooks would
sparingly drip paint onto only a small region of the canvas, at times
vertically rotating the canvas to force drips in different directions.
In works such as Aamo (1981), he used brush strokes to create
the illusion of drips so convincingly that it is difficult to
distinguish between the real drip and the artificial. Navigating these
two extremes––the semblance of instantaneous gesture on one hand and a
controlled mediation of materials on the other––Brooks’ work is entirely
distinct from that of the other Abstract Expressionists.
James Brooks: Familiar World 1942 – 1982 presents a unique view into the history of Abstract Expressionism through the vantage point of this crucial figure.
About the artist
Brooks was born in St. Louis, MO in 1906. He studied art at the
Southern Methodist University from 1923-25. In 1926, Brooks moved to New
York City, where he studied at the Art Students League with Kimmon
Nicolaides and Boardman Robinson. Brooks married Mary MacDonald
(1938-42). He served in the United States Army in the Middle East as an
Art Correspondent, with headquarters in Cairo and traveled in North
Africa, Palestine, and Egypt (1942-45). He married the artist Charlotte
Park in 1947. James Brooks died in East Hampton, NY in 1992.
Museum exhibitions include James Brooks at the Dallas Museum of Art: A Celebration, Dallas, TX (2006); Rediscovering James Brooks: WPA Murals & Other Figural Works, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY (1997); James Brooks: A Retrospective, Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME (1983); and James Brooks Retrospective,
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (1963), traveled to Rose
Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA; Baltimore Museum of Art,
Baltimore, MD; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Washington Gallery of
Contemporary Art, Washington, D.C.; University of California Art
Galleries, Los Angeles, CA. Selected museum collections include Solomon
R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New
York, NY, National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C., Brooklyn
Museum, Brooklyn, NY, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY and
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT.
 Irving H. Sandler. “James Brooks and the Abstract Inscape,” Art News, vol. 61 (February 1963), p. 63