If you approach John Brooks’ with no foreknowledge of him or his work, his paintings may strike you as primitive, or an example of ‘folk art’. We might begin by acknowledging the limitations of visual art nomenclature, which often seems designed to pigeonhole an artist; semantics aside, that reading becomes fascinating when one hears Brooks speak about his work in such thoughtful and intellectual terms. In his artist’s statement he tells us: “Regardless of subject matter or media, within each work is contained its own emotionally charged atmosphere and each work seems to have both specific and nebulous meaning.”
Earlier this year, Brooks moved into a new studio space in the Portland Neighborhood, and he thought he would use the change of space to move his work in a slightly different direction. “I've been collecting overheard phrases for years and have used them in my writing but have never previously used them in my visual work. This work is a real departure for me - it's abstract but also features the concreteness of text. But what I like about the phrases is the ambiguity they take on because they have no context. Some harmless phrases, like "Mommy Has It," even take on an air of the sinister.”
Yet Brooks found himself turning back to more familiar ground. “Thinking about the sinister and multi-dimensional meaning in that series of text-based paintings led me to return to my previous subject matter - faces - but with an eye on the mood of uncertainty that's seemingly overtaken the world, at least here in the US. This is a series still very much in progress, but they are about the zeitgeist, all that's happening in 2016: the fear of terror, the fear of unknown, the fear of ‘the other’.” Brooks certainly does see the new work as undeniably political, but he also believes they have an individual identity of their own; both personal and universal.
Brooks is a Kentucky native. He studied Political Science and English literature at the College of Charleston, in South Carolina, and art at Central St. Martins and the Hampstead School of Art in London, England. His work is held in private collections in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Germany, and India. Brooks has exhibited extensively in the United Kingdom and Europe, as well as Art Chicago. He moved back to Louisville, KY after several years in Chicago, Illinois. His last solo exhibition in Louisville, It Is So Beautiful Here, was at Swanson Contemporary in May 2015.
Hometown: Frankfort, KY
Education: BA in Political Science, College of Charleston; Studied art in England at Central St. Martins College of Art and Design, the Hampstead School of Art and the Camden Art Centre
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Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.