James Brooks “Paintings and Works on Paper 1945 - 1949”

Van Doren Waxter

poster for James Brooks “Paintings and Works on Paper 1945 - 1949”

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Revered as an abstract expressionist and a member of the Irascibles, Brooks’ work from the mid-late 1940s showcased the evolution of his style from realism to abstraction. Before World War II, Brooks was hired as a WPA artist, his most involved project being the Flight mural at LaGuardia airport finished in 1942. Following the completion of this mural, Brooks was drafted into the Air Force where he was a civil pilot trainee and a member of the Army Art Project where he worked as a combat artist in the Middle East. He was discharged from the Air Force in 1945 and moved back to New York where he taught advanced painting at Columbia University and moved into Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock’s old studio on Eighth Street.

Brooks’ work following his time in the service showcases his introduction to abstraction. Looking at Picasso and Braque, Brooks played with synthetic cubism utilizing tight, compact forms in mostly muted and darker hues. Using improvisation as a starting point, one can see Brooks’ exploration of materials and abandonment of spatial convention. Green Bottle (c. 1948), demonstrates this new style of painting highlighting form, shape and color with allusions to still life, no horizon line, and ambiguous focal points.

Working in Maine in the summer of 1948, Brooks’ work evolved further. Developing gestural brushwork based on the permeation of paint through canvas, absorbent Osnaburg cloth or paper glued to canvas, and the ghostly impressions left on the base materials, he began experimenting with fragmentary shapes and the arbitrary. His seminal painting Maine (1948), exemplifies Brooks’ sense of lyrical abstraction that came to fruition at this time. Linear sketches are interspersed between swaths of pink, gray, red, green and black. The layers of color create a dynamic and almost three-dimensional image.



from March 05, 2014 to April 25, 2014


James Brooks

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