On the day of our studio visit painter Kimberly Brooks was just back from Paris and eager to show off a stash of vintage fashion drawings she had unearthed there – the kind with cascading heaps of tailored pink satin and elaborate salon interiors in the background. Also, she was about to host a cocktail party to unveil a just-completed wedding portrait of a friend – a ceremonial monument to youth and surreal beauty in which the bride’s voluminous red dress takes up all the room and tells the story of the picture. Although rendered with a crisp Asian-inflected symmetry, it was also reminiscent of those old Renaissance pictures of nobility where the richly made clothes were overly the focal point of the portrait, even more so than the sitter’s face sometimes. Read More
The art world comes alive again in September, as galleries reopen and collectors return from far flung locations. We reviewed upcoming September exhibitions at more than 400 galleries around the country, and there will be a lot of painting on view.
As is typical, many galleries are bringing out the big guns for the new season – from Agnes Martin at The Pace Gallery in New York to a well structured survey of Bay Area figurative painter, Nathan Oliveira, at John Berggruen Gallery in San Francisco. Among the shows opening by emerging artists, it is hard to ignore the trend towards abstract painting that has swept over the art world.
Kimberly Brooks | “The Passage” 40 x 30 in. Oil on Linen 2011
Kimberly Brooks’s “Thread” at Taylor De Cordoba is neither about fashion nor the women who bring it to life but about how fashion lives but for the moment it’s worn. It’s about the expectations that clothes elicit, and once those expectations are met, memories of the occasion create attempts to rekindle the irretrievable beauty of, say, a “Sunset Boulevard” Gloria Swanson. As such, the show offers a metaphor of aging: we do, style does, and, as is the case here, specific time spent in the particular clothes does.
The show waxes lugubrious, the result of waiting for something or someone that doesn’t arrive. The faces are bland and featureless. Some appear in shadows and, in certain instances, are shadows. Some appear waxen as if at a wake, their wake, while others appear as if at a macabre masquerade ball. The overall effect is that of a post-apocalyptic fashion show (a nice image for looking back on one’s youth), with art direction by Tim Burton, refracted through Goya or Velazquez, and scripted by Cormac McCarthy.
Not so much feminine as asexual, the farthest thing imaginable from elegant or chic, the women may strike a conscious pose – they know their likeness is being captured – but they all look shrink-wrapped. Their model’s hardly-modeled face epitomizes blah, a state of couture obsolescence and personal irrelevance. The woman in Highrise clearly articulates, while the rest allude to alienation, not just from their clothes, their environment, but from themselves. Hardly comfortable in their clothes, they are even less comfortable in their skin, much less their lives.
Kimberly Brooks | “Highrise” 12 x 16 oil on linen 2011
The portraits feel cartoonish; this strikes a nice dynamic between high fashion and lowbrow culture. The women in The Confidant and Punk History have heads that look as if they’re about to be teleported to another solar system, giving them a sci-fi sense. Though their titles (Punk History, The Victorian) suggest specific eras, these two women in particular and the rest of them in general are not of that time and place or any time or place. They seem like re-imaginings of better days that were never better in the first place and thus have a treacly feeling, a Francis Bacon feeling, as if they’re disintegrating at an atomic level, from the inside out. A female version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream in a Stella McCartney dress wouldn’t feel out of place here.
Perhaps failed romance brings the women to this state of alienation. The posture of the woman in Bing Theatre suggests that she’s been spurned. The red seatback behind the woman in Soho House suggests a heart, as does the blue shape behind the man in The Passage. The Passage could conceivably be a marriage portrait, if it didn’t look as if someone tried to rub out the image of the man (and which could conceivably have led to the solitary woman in the claustrophobic Edward Hopperesque “Highrise”).
The exhibition reads like a designer’s preliminary sketch laid out on a storyboard, ready to be fleshed out. It offers a keen and incisive commentary on the user-end expectations of fashion: to be escorted by a man, to turn heads at galas, theaters, and commemorative portraits, all of which in retrospect result either in prettified mummies or else in sitters who are a lot more lonely than their attire and setting would suggest.
….Brooks’ latest oeuvre abandons the Hockney-like light-saturated planes of color and the Matisse-like flat decorative patterning that she deployed so skillfully in my portrait. Driven and prolific, the artist within a year has moved on to a darker, more deconstructed mood, to a Bacon-like paring down to ripened, abstracted essences. The new oil paintings—you can almost smell the fresh pigment, even in reproduction—are on exhibit from September 10 to October 22 at the Taylor De Cordoba gallery in Los Angeles. The show’s title, “Thread,” explains Kimberly (who loves fashion as much as paint), alludes “to the thread we use to weave, to adorn us in our clothing and what also connects us together, regardless of time period or culture.”
Someday, art lovers will have the technology to attend 50 receptions across as many square miles in the space of two hours — but not this Saturday, when what seems like half the galleris in L.A. simultaneously present blockbuster season-openers. Culver City makes this Hobson’s choice [of which exhibition to attend] a bit easier, offering a density of must-see exhibitions within a walkable geography….Kimberly Brooks returns to Taylor De Cordoba with haunting, fashion-forward portraiture.” – Shana Nys Dambrot
In an interview with artist Ethan Murrow, I depicted a spectrum I call “The Nudist and The Chemist”. On one side, there is “The Chemist”, who works in a pristine lab with a Bunsen Burner and the thinnest of pipette; on the other, there is “The Nudist”, who slathers paint with a spatula in one hand, a glass of wine in the other, all- while naked. While every artist’s approach is different, I’m leaning towards “The Nudist”. I think of the elder Matisse, who worked in bed into his eighties with yards of fabric, a big pair of scissors and sunglasses that the doctor prescribed he wear for fear the colors might get him too excited.
For this recent show I’ve been painting directly on oil primed linen, stapling it to the wall and then stretching it afterwards. All the themes I’ve been working on as a painter — portraiture, narrative, the language of costume– have melted into one another the way meat falls off the bone after it’s been roasting for a long time– no longer recognizable in its former incarnation, but more succulent. Whereas my previous exhibitions revolved around specific subjects, including people wearing specific types of styles (“Mom’s Friends”) or people who wield style altogether (“The Stylist Project”), I now let folds and patterns serve as a vehicle for a kind of abstraction. I’ve created a series of “unportraits” where the figure no longer serves a purpose like telling a story. It’s a shape, a part of the painting.
PRESS RELEASE – For Immediate Release
Kimberly Brooks: “Thread”, September 10 – October 22, 2011 Opening Reception: Saturday September 10, 2011 6pm – 8pm
Taylor De Cordoba is pleased to present “Thread”, a solo exhibition of new oil paintings by Los Angeles-based artist Kimberly Brooks. The exhibition will run from September 10 – October 22. The gallery will host an opening reception for the artist on Saturday, September 10 from 6pm-8pm.
In her latest body of work, Kimberly Brooks continues to explore portraiture, specifically the complexities of representations of female identities. While in her previous series, including Mom’s Friends (2007) and The Stylist Project (2010), the artist used figures to construct narratives, here the female form is part of a broader abstracted landscape. And while earlier portraits boasted an uncanny likenesses to their subjects, Brooks’ style has shifted into something that is simultaneously looser and richer. Facial features have been abstracted and bodies distorted. Fashion and costume, a longtime theme for Brooks, is also deconstructed. Once painstakingly rendered folds and drapes have been reduced to their essential shapes and color fields. In these sumptuous new images, Brooks continues to addresses questions about how we frame beauty, and the phenomenon of fashion as a both pop culture and artistic touchstone. Taken as a whole, the new paintings create a meta-narrative that contemplates “threads” that define, unite and separate us across different cultures and eras.
Kimberly Brooksʼ work has been featured in numerous juried exhibitions organized by curators from the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art. Her work has been featured in numerous including the Los Angeles Times, Art Ltd., Daily Serving, The Huffington Post, Vanity Fair, Vogue, among other publications.
For additional information and images, please contact Heather Taylor at 310-559-9156 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Taylor De Cordoba is located at 2660 South La Cienega Blvd in Los Angeles, CA. The gallery is open from Tuesday – Saturday, 11AM – 6PM.