Kim Biel: Technicolor Summer

The paintings in “Technicolor Summer,” Kimberly Brooks’ latest solo show at Taylor de Cordoba, are shot through with vibrant bolts of color: jade, ultramarine and magenta course through the highlights and support the shadows in these paintings that feel like pages from a family album. Drawing again on the snapshot aesthetic that was central to the work in her last show, “Mom’s Friends,” Brooks’ new paintings invite the viewer to dive even further into the emotional experience of browsing through family photographs.

Brooks explains that at the beginning of last summer a member of her family was diagnosed with a terminal illness. She recalls, “Immediately the world stopped. Every moment I was thinking, ‘This could be our last meal together or the last time we have this conversation.’ I started to feel like all the colors became much brighter; it was like living life in high definition. It was one of the more profound emotional experiences of my life.”
The new paintings reflect the emotional tension of this experience as they describe a feeling of muted nostalgia pricked by high-energy details. Though she works from photographs, Brooks rejects the label of photorealist. She says, “I didn’t want these paintings to be about the people; I wanted them to be about the feelings that the people were having. So I distort things in the original photograph and that opens up the field of narrative for the viewer.”

An undulating river of deep bottle green dominates Yosemite River I, while two children playing in the water serve as the tiny keys to unlock the experience of being in this sublime landscape. Brooks adeptly alternates the point of view of these paintings, moving in for a close-up, taking a candid portrait, or looking skyward through a canopy of redwoods as inYosemite Walk II.

Walking through her studio a week before the opening of her show, the feeling was not unlike compiling a selection of tracks for a record. There are strong correspondences between all the paintings in the Technicolor series. The work is not just a collection of greatest hits; the individual images build on each other to create a larger narrative. Brooks says, “I do feel like I’m putting out an album and I have 12-14 songs here that have to work together. But it also allows me the freedom to write a ballad in one piece and use really heavy bass on another.”

Brooks writes a weekly column, “First Person Artist,” for Ariana Huffington’s online newspaper, The Huffington Post. Brooks recalls, “At first Ariana asked me to write about my artwork…every week! And I thought, ‘That’s insane, I can’t do that!’ But it was irresistible for me to have that kind of an audience.” Brooks still occasionally writes about her own work or about her creative process, but the project is largely dedicated to showcasing the work of other artists, in their own words. Since the column began in September, Brooks has interviewed over a hundred artists.
This public persona is something of a new phenomenon for Brooks, who remembers, “I painted in silence, not exhibiting for many years. When I first put up a website with my work on it, it was password protected and I would dole out the password like little crumbs. When I took off the password protection I literally crawled under my desk, like something was going to happen! I felt like I busted out of myself, like I had to stop hiding.” Now that she’s stopped hiding, fans of Kimberly Brooks can’t get enough.

“Yosemite River I,” 2008, oil on linen, 30″ x 30″
Photo: Courtesy of Taylor de Cordoba Gallery

Kimberly Brooks’ new show, “Technicolor Summer,” could be seen May 10 – June 14, 2008 at Taylor de Cordoba, 2660 S. La Cienega Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034 (310) 559-9156