quappi projects

Painting, Photography

Feature: John Brooks

“An Abyss Of Thighs” by John Brooks, 37.5x33.5in, Oil on canvas, 2019, $3800

“An Abyss Of Thighs” by John Brooks, 37.5x33.5in, Oil on canvas, 2019, $3800

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John Brooks has work all over Louisville right now. He is a part of the Imagined Monuments exhibit at Metro Hall, he is showing with Letitia Quesenberry at O Gallery, and some of his paintings from a just closed show at Moremen Gallery will remain on view in a space adjacent to the main gallery (he’ll be showing there again this summer). On top of all of that, his Quappi Projects exhibition initiative, in which he shows other artist’s work in his studio in the Portland neighborhood, is going strong in its second year. He is especially articulate about the foundations of his practice and the imagery he creates, so we will let his most recent Artist’s Statements speak for themselves:

“I consider myself foremost an oil painter. This new and developing body of work represents the first time I have integrated two other areas of my creative practice - collage making and poetry - with my painting practice. This solution evolved out of what was primarily a crisis of composition: after nearly a decade of almost exclusively creating expressive faces, my painting practice had reached a standstill. I did not see a way forward until it occurred to me to utilize my collages - during the making of which I do not suffer from compositional frustrations - to help facilitate composition in my painting. Through this change in method and approach, I feel unbounded. The addition of poetic text into my painting has also made my work more expansive and allows for a more comprehensive representation of my artistic conceptions. In the past, I have mostly resisted incorporating text into my visual work out of a fear that it could be too leading, but as a person who writes constantly in my head as I move throughout the day, the appeal of joining my poetry practice and my painting practice was undeniable. The way in which I have incorporated text into these paintings provides a narrow window into an idea or feeling but bewilders more than illuminates.”

“Fizz Of Hornets (Betty)” by John Brooks, 42x56in, Oil on canvas, 2018, $3800

“Fizz Of Hornets (Betty)” by John Brooks, 42x56in, Oil on canvas, 2018, $3800

“For the last decade, my work has explored themes of identity, memory, death, and place, and has been centered around questions of contemplation, the expression of emotion, the transformative power and the emotional resonance of particular experiences and what Max Beckmann described as “the deepest feeling about the mystery of being.” These paintings are a continuation of those notions. Something seems amiss in the zeitgeist; a mood of uncertainty and disquiet has seemingly overtaken the world. We find these moments before in history: in 1929’s Buchmandel, Stefan Zweig wrote: “Something had gone irrecoverably wrong; he was broken; the blood-red comet of the war had burst into the remote, calm atmosphere of his bookish world.” Are we living on the cusp of such an era or has it already begun? Collage is the perfect metaphorical representation of the disjointedness of contemporary life, of this exact moment in the twenty-first century. We are at once both so interconnected and so siloed; we are so fortunate and so starved; we are so inundated with knowledge and information that we ignore it in order to remain ignorant; our societies are unimaginably diverse and complex yet we fear the stranger, the other. “

“In most of these works, I have chosen to leave expanses of canvas unpainted. This is both an aesthetic choice but also a reference to the paintings’ relationship to poetry. Good poetry says the most it can with as few words as necessary; the impact of one correct word far outweighs the impact of several incorrect words. What a poet leaves out is as important as what he or she includes. Rich and luscious, oil paint has inherently excessive qualities; many colors are made from amalgams of precious minerals and metals, and others are made from earth pigments and charred animal bones. Throughout the process of making this series, I became entranced with the challenge of working with materials that dared me to be excessive while trying to employ the restraint of a poet’s eye. In that sense, these paintings are an exercise in spareness.“

“While these works contain some personal references, experiences and particular depictions of extant LBGTQIA+ life, their objective is ultimately not concerned with the specific; rather they are meant to evoke tantalizingly unreachable atmospheres and to engage with nebulous answers to queries about the search for and ambiguity of meaning and the powerful desire for connection and sense of belonging; they approach an attempt to make sense of the constant disparate noises, voices, and directives which contemporary life seems to exist amidst.”

“Stinson” by John Brooks, 8x10in, Digital photograph, 2018, $250 (edition of 5)

“Stinson” by John Brooks, 8x10in, Digital photograph, 2018, $250 (edition of 5)

Brooks offers separate thoughts on his photographs:

“I consider myself foremost an oil painter, and it is in my painting where these fundamental themes are most  rigorously probed, but my creative practice encompasses work in a variety of other media including collage, sculpture, poetry, and photography. While painting mostly happens only in long, designated sessions, I live with and work with poetry and photography on a daily basis. I consider them to be essential to my work as an artist.”

”These works were taken with my iPhone 8 Plus and represent the first time I have exhibited photography. Locations include Louisville, Miami, the San Francisco Bay area, New York City, the Hamptons, Athens and other parts of Greece. Even as a writer, I think visually. I see in images; I look in frames. Before the proliferation of mobile phones and the vast improvements made in their camera lenses, I often carried around a Nikon 35mm camera, and later a Leica X1. In the last several years I have become inseparable from my iPhone - less so for internet access than for wanting to have the camera with me at all times. In case a bird comes; in case the light moves. It isn’t documentation of occurrences that I am compelled to capture, but rather what I feel, or see, or what I think I almost see. Permeated with an atmosphere of loss and longing, or what the Germans describe as Sehnsucht, these meditative and emotionally resonant images do not posture a sense of knowing, but rather disclose themselves as unknowing, even unknowable. Joy is present, too, and praise for the ephemeral delicateness of existence. In thinking about this joint exhibition with Letitia Quesenberry, she and I came to understand that what binds these two bodies of work together is the subtle tension between the promise of an attainable understanding and the elusiveness of the answer. There is never any arrival; understanding is just out of reach, tantalizingly beyond what is within grasp. These non-arrivals are, of course, what compels us to revisit works of art time and time again.”

“Statement of Other History” by John Brooks, 72x96in, Oil on canvas, $2200.00

“Statement of Other History” by John Brooks, 72x96in, Oil on canvas, $2200.00

Jim Zimmer / Often the Content is Impenetrable is at Quappi projects through March 3.

Non-Arrivals, with Letitia Quesenberry at O Art, 1000 Swan Street, runs through March 9.

“Statement of Other History” is a part of Imagined Monuments, an LVA exhibit for Metro Hall, 527 West Jefferson Street, runs through July 12.

Hometown: Frankfort, Kentucky
Education: BA in Political Science, Minor in English literature from College of Charleston, SC 2000; continuing education at Central St Martins, Hampstead School of Art, Camden Art Centre, London, England 2006-2009
Website: johnedwardbrooks.com
Instagram: narcissusandgoldmund

Scroll down for more images

“Wind Is Wild Now”by John Brooks, 42x56in, Oil on canvas, 2018, $3800

“Wind Is Wild Now”by John Brooks, 42x56in, Oil on canvas, 2018, $3800

“Mother(Darrell)” by John Brooks, 8x10in, Digital photograph, 2018, $250 (edition of 5)

“Mother(Darrell)” by John Brooks, 8x10in, Digital photograph, 2018, $250 (edition of 5)


Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2018 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved. In addition to his work at the LVA, Keith is also the Managing Editor of a website, Arts-Louisville.com, which covers local visual arts, theatre, and music in Louisville.

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Painting

Q&A: Quappi Projects


“We have more knowledge than at any time in human history, yet not only do we not seem comforted or buoyed by that knowledge, we have - or some of us have, I suppose - begun to openly reject knowledge, experience and even commonly agreed-upon facts.“ – John Brooks


Artist, John Brooks

Artist, John Brooks

Q&A with John Brooks about Quappi Projects

‘Quappi’ was the nickname of Mathilde von Kaulbach, who was married to German New Objectivist painter Max Beckmann (1884-1950). It was derived from the similarity of her surname to the German word Kaulquappe, meaning ‘tadpole’.

It is a singular phrase with no other formal meaning, which seems to delight Louisville artist John Brooks, and so he chose it as the moniker of his new exhibition initiative, Quappi Projects. Occupying most of his current studio space at 1520 B Lytle Street in the Portland neighborhood, the mission is to showcase four artists each year from in and outside of Louisville. The inaugural show will be work of Adam Chuck, a Cleveland, Ohio native, now living and making work in Brooklyn, New York.

What motivated you to devote some of your studio space to exhibition space for other artists?

"Diogo In Pink" by Adam Chuck, 5x7in, oil on mylar

"Diogo In Pink" by Adam Chuck, 5x7in, oil on mylar

Running a gallery is an endeavor I've long been interested in, but it was difficult to imagine a way in which I could maintain a studio practice, run a gallery, and afford to do both. I was between studios in 2015 and spent the summer in Berlin. Part of that time was spent studying under the German artist Norbert Bisky, whose work I've admired for a long time.  We discussed a lot of things, including lamenting the difficulty of finding avenues to show and share work. He advised that I (or anyone!) should just "start my own thing;" so I've had this bee in my bonnet for a couple of years. Since January 2016 I've shared my Lytle Street studio space with another artist, and when he decided to move out I knew that this was my opportunity. The space is perfect - clean, bright, white, and with enough room to allow me to continue my studio practice and to exhibit others' work in a proper way.

As an artist, I know how difficult it can be to find arenas in which to show your work, and I am thrilled by the idea that I can provide that opportunity to other artists. Also, I've been fortunate to live in both London and Chicago, and have traveled the United States and Europe fairly extensively, so I feel like I have a broad range of art-related experiences and knowledge that I can rely on to help inform the direction of the gallery's platform.

"Baptism" by Adam Chuck, 4x7.35in, oil on mylar

"Baptism" by Adam Chuck, 4x7.35in, oil on mylar

How did you become aware of Adam Chuck's work?

"Hand Palm" by Adam Chuckn, 5.5x7in, oil on mylar

"Hand Palm" by Adam Chuckn, 5.5x7in, oil on mylar

Adam Chuck paints primarily images from social media; fittingly, we "met" quite randomly through Instagram a few years ago. Though we've never yet met in person, we have developed what I consider to be a real friendship, which speaks both to the power and possibilities of social media but also the power and purity of his work. When it became clear that Quappi Projects was really going to happen, I knew I wanted to inaugurate the gallery with a show of Adam's work and happily he said yes. I'm a fan (and a collector) of his work and am so excited to be able to share it with the Louisville art community and the city at large. At first glance, Adam's work might seem to border on the salacious, but I think it creeps up to that line and then walks back. Most of the work is tiny, phone-screen-sized, owing its existence to social media platforms such as Instagram. The work is intimate, sensual and extremely honest. Each work is an exposure, really; it is essentially about reaching out, about the deep desire to connect, and represents an attempt to know and be known. In an age of terror and big fears, Adam's work seems infused with knowledge of those fears, but speaks more to the fundamental needs and basic human fears of need: to be desired, to be loved, to be seen, to be considered.

Tell me about the term "quappi"? I know the Beckman story, but what does it mean to you?

I believe very much in the transformative power of art. I have experienced this enough times in my own life to understand and value its merit, and I firmly believe that the highest function of art is to allow human beings to know ourselves more deeply. My own work has been concerned with the emotional resonance of particular experiences and what Max Beckmann described as "the deepest feeling about the mystery of being." Quappi Projects' goal is to exhibit contemporary art reflecting the zeitgeist, and the zeitgeist is mighty strange. Perhaps all times are strange, but I don't think there's any arguing that we are living in very strange times.

"Bildnis Quappi" by Max Beckmann

"Bildnis Quappi" by Max Beckmann

We have more knowledge than at any time in human history, yet not only do we not seem comforted or buoyed by that knowledge, we have - or some of us have, I suppose - begun to openly reject knowledge, experience and even commonly agreed-upon facts. I find that very worrying. I think the experiences of 20th Century German artists like Max Beckmann (and others) are relevant to us today.  Beckmann didn't consider himself a political person, yet his entire life was thrown into upheaval because of politics. He considered political concerns to be secondary to the concerns of the spiritual or metaphysical. Although I am a political person (and have a BA in Political Science) I agree with him and certainly find most explicitly political work too narrowly focused. At the same time, I think the best art reflects the times in which it was created, so it must have some element of the political. Take Velazquez' "Las Meninas," for example - artistically, it is a masterpiece, but it also tells us so much about the Spanish Court and what was going on at the time. I find that balance fascinating, and hopefully we can show work that is interesting in the same way. Even if we fall just a little short of "Las Meninas," we'll be very successful!

I plan to alternate non-Louisville-based and Louisville-based artists have a great series of artists lined up: Baghdad, Iraq-born artist Vian Sora, who now lives and works in Louisville; Louisville native Whit Forrester, who lives in Chicago and just graduated with an MFA from Columbia College; wood artisan Michael James Moran, a central Kentucky native who now lives and works in the Hudson Valley; and photographer Ryan Tassi.

"Raven Wings" by Adam Chuck, 5.5x7.25in, oil on mylar

"Raven Wings" by Adam Chuck, 5.5x7.25in, oil on mylar

Beckmann credited Quappi with keeping him going, keeping him on task and inspired. I think we're living in times when we must keep going, be on task, and be inspired. It's very easy to want to give into the notion of being quiet and comfortable, but I think we must resist that. We must be open, communicate, and connect. I'm hoping the spirit of Quappi can help me do that.

Adam Chuck / Instant Gratification

August 18 – September 29
Opening: Friday, August 18 / 5:00-9:00pm

Quappi Projects
1520 B Lytle Street
Gallery open by appointment only
www.quappiprojects.com

"Portrait of Les" by Adam Chuckn, 3.25x4in, oil on mylar

"Portrait of Les" by Adam Chuckn, 3.25x4in, oil on mylar

Entire contents copyright © 2017 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

Are you interested in being on Artebella?  Click here  to learn more.

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