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 James D. Brooks  (1906 - 1992)

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Lived/Active: New York/Missouri      Known for: modernist genre to abstraction, collage

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James D Brooks
from Auction House Records.
Untitled (Blue Abstraction)
© Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY See Details
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A painter of both Social Realism and Abstract Expressionism and part of the so-called New York School, James Brooks did many large-scale paintings that expressed a sense of cosmic space as though a high-powered telescope were penetrating space so deeply that one feels the color, the form, and the surge of movement. He used much black, so that darkness seemed equal to the other colors of his canvases and conveyed a sense of void amongst floating and colliding bright colors.

He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and during his childhood, moved frequently throughout the Southwest. In the mid and late 1920s in Dallas, Texas, he attended Southern Methodist University and the Dallas Art Institute where he studied with Martha Simkins.

In 1926, he moved to New York City and worked as a commercial lettering artist, while taking night classes at the Art Students League from 1927 to 1930. From 1931 to 1934, he traveled and painted in the American West and Southwest, painting in a Social Realist style.

Between 1936 and 1942, he worked on murals for the WPA Federal Art Project including ones for Queensborough Public Library, Woodside Branch Library, and La Guardia Airport. The LaGuardia mural called Flight, later destroyed, was especially impressive and huge--12 feet by 235 feet.  He served in North Africa as an army artist during World War II, and the end of this service also marked the end of his painting in realistic styles.

In 1949, having observed Jackson Pollock's drip style, Brooks experimented with pouring pigment on the back of un-sized canvas, and became much lauded for his achieving of balance between spontaneity and control. In 1953, he abandoned that technique for much more densely packed, tightly controlled structure resembling Cubism. In the early 1960s, he added linear calligraphy to his painting.

From 1947 to 1975, Brooks taught at various colleges and universities including Pratt Institute, Columbia University, and Cooper Union in New York City, the Art Center in Miami, Yale University, and the University of Pennsylvania. In 1963, he was artists in residence at the American Academy in Rome and in 1967 had a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Brooks died in East Hampton, New York in 1992, having suffered from Alzheimer's disease beginning 1985.

Sources:
John and Deborah Powers, Texas Painters, Sculptors & Graphic Artists
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art


This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following was written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.


James Brooks was born in 1906 in St. Louis, Missouri.  He studied at the Dallas Art Institute from 1925 to 1926 and the Art Students League from 1927 to 1931.  During the 1930s he worked with the Federal Arts Project in a style of vigorous and monumental realism.  During the 1940s his style    matured in the direction of abstraction and he was prominent among the abstract expressionists in the 1950s. He had a retrospective exhibition circulating from the Whitney Museum of American Art.   

Brooks was a tidy man with a soft self-assured way of speaking.  He was far more concerned with shapes than with colors.  He spent three years as a United States Army combat artist in World War II in the Near East.  He had been a commercial artist.muralist and teacher of lettering.  He got swept into the new cult of abstract expressionism that was rocking the world in the postwar years.  His abstractions were linear affairs, filled with curvy arabesques and occasional dribble, like those of his friend Jackson Pollock.  He tried titling them by number, then by letter and then put nonsense syllables together to make names.   

Brooks died in Brookhaven,  Long Island, New York in 1992 at the age of eighty-five.   

Sources include:   
The Oxford Companion to 20th Century Art, edited by Harols Osborne   
Time Magazine, February 8, 1963, and January 21, 1957      
ARTnews, May 1992


Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries (Artists, A-D):
James Brooks began his career as a Social Realist artist, but later adopted an abstract style and became associated with the so-called New York School and the Abstract Expressionist movement. Born October 18, 1906, in St. Louis, Missouri, Brooks moved around as a child, because his father was a traveling salesman. He lived in Oklahoma City and Shawnee, Oklahoma, and Denver, Colorado, before settling with his family in Dallas, Texas, where he attended high school and began his formal study of art at Southern Methodist University from 1923-1925. After he left college, he continued his artistic training with Martha Simkins, a former student of William Merritt Chase. In 1926, Brooks relocated to New York City, where he enrolled in night classes at The Art Students League, studying with Kimon Nicolaides and Boardman Robinson. He supported himself by working as a commercial letterer. After completing three years of art school, he spent half the year in his job as a letterer in New York and the other six months traveling in the west and southwest, painting pictures in a Social Realist style. At this time, Brooks began to exhibit his prints and paintings in group shows at the Midtown Galleries and at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

From 1936 to 1942, working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Art Project in New York, Brooks executed several murals, including the celebrated "Flight," 1942, an episodic history of the effort to fly on the walls of the lobby of the International Marine Terminal Building at La Guardia Airport (now the Delta Air Lines Terminal). During the Second World War, he served in the United States Army as a combat artist in Egypt and in the Near East, creating images of daily army life and of the destruction wrought by the war. After serving abroad from 1942-1945, he was reassigned to the presentation division of the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) in Washington, D.C.

After the war, he returned to New York City to resume painting and reconnected with several old friends from his WPA days, including Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston, and Bradley Walker Tomlin. He began to see a great deal of Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock and went to live in their old studio on Eighth Street after they moved permanently to the Springs, Long Island. Pollock frequently stayed with Brooks on trips to Manhattan, and Brooks spent his summers in Montauk beginning in 1949. At this time, his work became increasingly abstract, revealing the influence of Synthetic Cubism and the imagery of Arshile Gorky.

While painting in Maine in the summer of 1948, Brooks had an artistic breakthrough. He discovered that the glue paste he used to attach his paper to canvas accidentally bled through to the side with his images. He started to exploit this staining technique, moving beyond the more rigid format of his Cubist-inspired compositions. In addition, he relied more heavily on automatism and free brushwork, creating images that showed the influence of Pollock’s action painting methods.

Beginning in the 1950s, while continuing to construct multi-layered canvases filled with small, irregular shapes and thin, fluid lines, Brooks transformed the surface of his pictures. He experimented with the thinning and drying of the medium and with applying mixtures of commercial enamels and oils directly from the tube to create a matte surface and to limit the viscosity of the pigment. From the 1960s on, Brooks simplified his compositions, abandoning the densely packed character of his earlier works. Color, however, remained a consistent and essential ingredient in his pictures, and he frequently started with colored grounds rather than plain white canvas. As the art historian Lisa Mintz Messinger observes, “It is interesting to note that Brooks’s Long Island home, which he shares with his wife, the artist Charlotte Park, is filled with delightful and unexpected accents of bright color. White walls and white furniture are juxtaposed against painted wooden floors of mustard yellow, green, and blue and painted yellow ceiling beams.” (1)

From 1947 to 1975, Brooks taught as a way to supplement his income. His teaching appointments included instructor in drawing at Columbia University, New York (1946-1948); instructor in lettering at the Pratt Institute, New York (1948-1955); visiting critic at Yale University, New Haven (1955-1960) and the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (1971-1972); and Andrew Carnegie Visiting Professor of Art at Cooper Union, New York (1975). He also was artist in residence at the American Academy in Rome in 1963 and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1967.

In 1949, Brooks had his first one-man show at the Peridot Gallery in New York. This exhibition was followed by numerous shows in New York at the Stable Gallery, the Kootz Gallery, and the Martha Jackson Gallery among others. During his lifetime, he had five retrospectives, which traveled to museums throughout the country, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, and the Portland Museum of Art in Maine. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Brooklyn Museum; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Hirshhorn Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Tate Gallery, London, are among the over fifty museums in which his works can be found.

Having suffered from Alzheimer’s disease since 1985, Brooks died in East Hampton, New York, in 1992.

1) James Brooks, as quoted in Lisa Mintz Messinger, "James Brooks: A Quarter-Century of Work" (Huntington, New York: The Heckscher Museum, 1988), 11. This passage is from a letter that Brooks wrote in 1958 to explain why he refused to participate in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s "Nature in Abstraction" exhibition.

© Copyright 2008 Hollis Taggart Galleries

Biography from Vered Gallery:
"Good painting as always is a door opened to man's spirit... it will not repel because of its obscurity, but may because of its directness."
James Brooks

James Brooks was born in St. Louis, Missouri and during his childhood, moved frequently throughout the Southwest.  In the mid and late 1920s in Dallas, Texas, he attended Southern Methodist University and the Dallas Art Institute where he studied with Martha Simkins.  Brooks  moved to New York City in 1926 from his home in Dallas.   In New York he worked as a commercial artist to fund his night classes with traditional artists Boardman Robinson and Kimon Nicolaides at the Art Students League.

Brooks was a painter of both Social Realism and Abstract Expressionism and part of the so-called New York School.   James Brooks did many large-scale paintings that expressed a sense of cosmic space as though a high-powered telescope were penetrating space so deeply that one feels the color, the form, and the surge of movement.  He used much black, so that darkness seemed equal to the other colors of his canvases and conveyed a sense of void amongst floating and colliding bright colors.

He began exhibiting paintings and prints in a social realist style in various group shows around New York in the early 1930’s and executed three murals for the WPA Federal Art Project between 1936 and 1942, during which time he met the painters Jackson Pollock and Philip Guston.   His best-known mural, Flight, runs 235 feet around the rotunda of the Marine Air Terminal at La Guardia Airport in Queens.  However, the mural was painted over without explanation in the 1950s, but following the protests of art historians and curators it was fully restored in 1980.

Brooks served in WW II and returned to New York in 1945 where he renewed his friendships with Guston, Pollock, and Bradley Walker Tomlin.  He first developed an abstract style influenced by the synthetic Cubism of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque and in the summer of 1948 he developed a more fluid abstract style after being inspired by the random shapes that occurred on the back of canvases to which he had glued paintings with black paste.  He subsequently executed a series of stained and dripped canvases that were featured at his first solo exhibition the following year at the Peridot Gallery in New York City.

In 1949, having observed Jackson Pollock's drip style, Brooks experimented with pouring pigment on the back of unsized canvas, and became much lauded for his achieving of balance between spontaneity and control.  In 1953, he abandoned that technique for much more densely packed, tightly controlled structure resembling Cubism. In the early 1960s, he added linear calligraphy to his painting.

From 1947 to 1975, Brooks taught at various colleges and universities including Pratt Institute, Columbia University, and Cooper Union in New York City, the Art Center in Miami, Yale University, and the University of Pennsylvania.  In 1963, he was artists in residence at the American Academy in Rome and in 1967 had a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Many of Brooks's early works in the Abstract Expressionist style retained vestiges of the Cubist grid.  He experimented with enamels, gouache, and thinned oils over various backgrounds such as crayon; his palette generally alternated between browns, grays, or blacks and more vivid colors.  Later in his career Brooks introduced more assertive forms, for which his work is well recognized.   In the late 1960s he switched from oils to acrylics, a change that prompted the use of a wider range of colors, broader strokes, and simpler compositions with larger color areas.

Although Brooks' service in the army excluded him from participation in ground-breaking exhibitions at Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century gallery, he has nevertheless been considered by critics to be a member of the first generation of Abstract Expressionists.  He participated in many group exhibitions around the country, among the most important being the historic, artist-organized Ninth Street Exhibition (1951), which included the work of Pollock, Hans Hofmann, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, and Robert Motherwell, and two influential exhibitions organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Twelve Americans (1956) and New American Painting (1959).  His work has been featured in many solo exhibitions; retrospectives of his work were organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (1963) and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (1972).

Biography from Anderson Galleries:
JAMES BROOKS
(1906 - 1992)

1906
Born, St. Louis, MO

1923-25
Studied at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX

1926
Moved to New York City

1927-30
Studied at Art Students League with Kimon
Nicolaides 8- Boardman Robinson

1938-42
Married to Mary MacDonald

1942-45
Served in the United States Army in the Middle East as
an Art Correspondent, with headquarters in Cairo, & traveled to North Africa, Palestine & Egypt

1947
Married to the artist Charlotte Park

1992
Died, East Hampton, NY

MUSEUM COLLECTIONS
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois
Brooklyn Museum, New York
Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Dallas Museum of Art, Texas
Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Fordham University, Bronx, New York
Fort Lauderdale Museum of Fine Art, Florida
Grey Art Gallery, New York University, New York
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, New York
Hirshorn Museum, Washington, DC
Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois,
Champaign, Illinois
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas
Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey
Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, New York
National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC
Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska,
Lincoln, Nebraska
Newark Museum, New Jersey
Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Portland Museum of Art, Maine
Rockefeller University, New York
Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas
Tamayo Museum, Mexico City, Mexico
Tate Gallery, London, England
Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, Savannah, Georgia
University of California, Berkeley
University of Houston, Texas
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
University of Texas, Michener Collection, Austin
Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut

PUBLIC COLLECTIONS
Bank of New York, New York
Chase-Manhattan Bank Collection, New York
Chemical Bank, New York
Ciba-Geigy Corporation, Ardsley, New York
Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, Georgia
Empire State Plaza Art Collection, Albany, New York
International Minerals and Chemicals Corporation,
Skokie, Illinois
Lannan Foundation, Palm Beach, Florida
Miles Metal Corporation, New York
New York State Administration Center, Albany, New York
Owens-Corning Fiberglass Building, Toledo, Ohio
Pepsico Company, White Plains, New York
Philip Morris International, New York
Singer Manufacturing Company Collection, New York
Union Carbide Corporation, New York

Biography from Boca Raton Museum of Art:
James Brooks
Born in 1906, American, James Brooks was in the group of the New York School* of the abstract painters in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  In the 30s he was commissioned by the Federal Arts Projec*t to do a mural for a public space.

James Brooks arrived at his first abstractions through Cubism*. It was curvilinear-free version of cubism.   He produced a number of works suggestive of Pollock’s drip paintings, but then went on to a phase of free but tense color structure in which the cubist forms and lyrical patterns are implicit.  He died in March 9, 1992.

By The Boca Raton Museum of Art
Catalina Torres (Intern)


* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx




** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.


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