ARTILLERY Review “Pick of the Week” by Annabel Osberg

Russian Room, 42 x 36 in., Oil on linen 2018

by Annabel Osborne

Calling all Kimberly Brooks fans: A short time remains to catch “Fever Dreams,” her mid-career survey at Mt. San Antonio College Art Gallery. More than 20 pieces, from small studies to watercolors on paper to large-scale oil paintings, sketch Brooks’ artistic progression over the past 15 years. Upon entering the gallery, the first paintings you encounter are among her newest and shiniest. All opulence and emptiness, these recent interiors evoke the desolate nostalgia of attending long-uninhabited historic sites such as homes, temples or palaces now unused except by visiting tourists. In paintings such as Altar (2018) and Chandelier(2018), thin washy passages of bare underpainting peep through mirror-like lattices of crinkly gold and silver leaf. Conveying an antiquated effect, the impromptu air and faded coloration of Brooks’ muted washes counterpoint the grandiose resplendence of her veined metallic overlays appearing as sumptuous skeletons of what once was. The inability to adequately imagine the distant past as described in history books and museums is clearly a key inspiration for Brooks’ hazily painted portrayals of venerable settings. Blank paintings within paintings appear to have mysteriously vanished from ornate frames. Adorning faintly painted museum walls, gilt-framed indistinct sub-pictures sport nondescript subjects. Several compositions recalling Renaissance-style tapestries, including Los Angeles (2018), feature obfuscated figures and nebulous landscapes evoking blurry reveries of vague recollections. Memory of the Banquet (2013) is particularly memorable, almost surreal, with a table floating amid gray throngs superimposed upon barren wilderness. Brooks’ watercolors from the early 2000’s portray more intimate scenes of cocktail parties, parks and lived-in rooms; yet they, too, are suffused with a dreamy sense of wistful detachment.

Mt. San Antonio College Art Gallery
Building 1B/1C
1100 N. Grand Ave.
Walnut, CA 91789
Show runs through Dec. 6

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