Kimberly Brooks: I Notice People Disappear
Solo exhibition, Arthouse 429
429 25th St., West Palm Beach, FL
Feb 6 – March 6, 2014
by Daniel Maidman
A fruit does not taste its best when you pick it. Consider a strawberry, or a pear. After picking, decomposition increases its sweetness and flavor for some unspecified interval. If you can sense the peak of that interval, and eat it then, it will taste as delicious as anything nature has produced. Only later does the rot become sour and repellant.
Memory is a continuum between experience and forgetting, and it operates in a way similar to the decay of the fruit. Experience itself is not as sweet and flavorful as the event experienced will become. These qualities go on ripening for some interval in the mind, until recollection unburies the experience, and displays it again before the eye and ear and heart. These exhumed memories, at the peak of their ripening, are now unbearably full: full of color, of light, of emotion and significance. And again like the strawberry or pear, only later do memories blacken and rot away.
I recognized Kimberly Brooks’s new body of work, “I Notice People Disappear,” when I saw it, although of course I had never seen it before.
She paints luxurious rooms, full of light, details vague, colors vivid but people translucent, indistinct, or missing. I recognized her work because it situates itself in that luminous region between experience and forgetting, when memory has ripened the raw material of experience into a nearly unbearable sweetness, a sweetness both celebratory and melancholy; celebratory of the experience that was lived, and melancholy because that living can really only be appreciated after it has already passed away.
I recognized too, from the subject of memory, and the foregrounded mechanisms of forgetting, and the stuffy trappings of wealth, that Brooks was self-consciously exploring the territory mapped by Proust, the prince of memory, who prowled the borders between the upper middle class and the minor aristocracy in pre-war France.