INTERVIEW: LA WEEKLY Shana Nys Dambrot

Meet an Artist Monday: Painter Kimberly Brooks
by Shana Nys Dambrot

L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?

KIMBERLY BROOKS: I knew I was an artist since I was little. I had a set of markers in kindergarten that I kept incredible care of, and every few years I would get more colors. When I was 13, my father took me to New York’s MoMA, and when I saw Malevich’s White on White I had so many questions and it filled me with determination. That same moment also led my late father, Leonard Shlain, to pen his first book, Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time and Light.

What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?

This changes depending upon the year you ask. I fall into subjects as if into a well. I used to focus on the figure. Now I tune into my imagination, painting interiors and landscapes that I either dreamed or remember.


Kimberly Brooks, Fawn, 2018, oil on linen

What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?

I would start a publishing company so that I could collaborate with artists and writers. I love putting art and words together into a new kind of art.

Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?

I grew up in San Francisco and Marin, where the light is primarily silver. I tried living in other places, New York (too much cement), and for a year in my 20s I lived in Paris and played piano in bars at night. It was terribly romantic, intoxicating to the point of oppressive. I was also broke. But in Los Angeles, which I discovered almost by accident due to an out-of-the-blue job opportunity, the light is gold. There was a singular moment, in a rented red Nissan Sentra on Sunset Boulevard, while the sunlight was blinking between the palm trees into my eyes, that I knew that it was here that I could be an artist in full.

When is/was your current/most recent/next show?

My current survey exhibition, “Fever Dreams” at Mt. San Antonio College, is my largest yet. It features 32 oil paintings and 20 works on paper. It’s about 21 miles east of DTLA and worth the trip. I also have a piece in the group exhibition “Nature Worship,” curated by Andi Campognone at the Mash Gallery in downtown LA.

Fever Dreams,” Mt. San Antonio College. 1100 N. Grand Ave., Walnut;
through Dec. 6.

Nature Worship,” Mash Gallery, 1325 Palmetto St., downtown;
through Nov. 10.

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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