DMA Presents James Brooks: A Celebration Featuring Important New Brooks Acquisitions

DMA now holds one of the most definitive Brooks collections

Dallas, TX, July 24, 2006The Dallas Museum of Art presents James Brooks: A Celebration at the Dallas Museum of Art, a rich artistic study of one of Dallas’s (and Texas’s) first great modern artists, through December 3, 2006 in the Museum’s Focus Gallery. The exhibition will feature four new works recently given to the DMA: K-1952, (1952), Self Portrait (1931), Barber Shop (1931), and Untitled abstraction (1946-47), by the artist’s widow, the artist Charlotte Park Brooks, and made possible by his niece, Dallas resident (and former Dallas Museum of Art staff member) Julie Cochran. In response to this act of generosity the Dallas Museum of Art in turn acquired seven drawings and prints by Brooks, from an early 1930s drawing of water towers to a 1985 abstraction that fully rounds out the DMA’s representation of Brooks’ long and multi-faceted career.

Joined with significant paintings and drawings already at the DMA that had been acquired in the preceding decades, (including Igor S. (1971), from an anonymous donor, and Quand (1969) and Ipswich (1967), from the Meadows Foundation, this gift allows the Dallas Museum of Art to present a succinct and beautiful retrospective of Brooks’ art, and makes the DMA a fitting home to one of the definitive holdings of the artist’s works in the world.

About the Brooks Gifts
K-1952 (1952), one of Brooks’ masterworks from the height of his career, illustrates the basic ideas behind the Abstract Expressionist movement that took large scale, vibrant color, bold gesture and challenging abstract form as central ingredients and changed the course of twentieth century art. In particular, Brooks used staining, dripping, overprinting, and direct application of paint to create an “all over” composition in which there is no one central focus for the eye. In a rich alternately bold and subtle palette of greens, reds and oranges, Brooks created in this work a dazzling atmosphere of vibrancy and movement that possesses within its frame an undeniable energy and an abstract language unmistakably its own.

The simple and elegant, Self Portrait (1932) and the strongly elemental Oklahoma Barber Shop (1931), represents Brooks’ roots in Dallas’ regionalist aesthetic of the pre-World War II era when the Dallas Nine, an important school of painting that emphasized modernist realism and often took its subjects from the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, flourished.

The 1946-47 Untitled abstraction sees Brooks evolving away from modernist realism to abstraction. Brooks can be seen in this work to be deriving a new vocabulary of forms based on various sources in nature as well as the work of European surrealists, who arrived in New York to escape Nazi-occupied Europe. With this work, Brooks can be seen to be part of the most advanced currents of the avant-garde in post-World War II New York: indeed his friendship with Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner was enormously important at this moment in furthering Brooks ideas about the ways and means of making paintings in the alternately anxious and hopeful era of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

About the Exhibition
James Brooks: A Celebration will feature the Dallas Museum of Art’s entire collection of Brooks’ work, including paintings, drawings, and prints that span the artist’s career, starting with stark landscapes and figurative works from the 1930s, through his challenging and brilliant evolution to abstraction reaching into the 1980s.

“James Brooks: A Celebration confirms Brooks’s status as an essential member of the internationally acclaimed Abstract Expressionists,” said Charlie Wylie, The Lupe Murchison Curator of Contemporary Art of the Dallas Museum of Art, “but as importantly the exhibition is a way to thank Charlotte Park Brooks and Julie Cochran, the artist’s widow and niece, for their spectacular generosity. The DMA is truly lucky to be able to represent one of Dallas’s and indeed our country’s most distinguished artists with a great body of works given directly to us by his family members.”

The DMA first presented Brooks’ works in 1933 when the Museum awarded him a first prize and three honorable mentions for a series of lithographic prints done in the prevailing style of the renowned Dallas Nine regionalist school. From this solid beginning, Brooks (1906-1992) would go on to achieve international acclaim as one of the groundbreaking figures in American Abstract Expressionism, the revolutionary mid 20th-century movement whose achievements are still being felt in the realm of contemporary art.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri and raised in Dallas, Brooks graduated from Oak Cliff High School, attended Southern Methodist University, and took classes at the Dallas Art Institute with Martha Simpkins, a former William Merrit Chase student, before moving to New York in 1926.

There he continued studying at the Art Students League and worked as a letterer to support his studies. By the mid-1930s Brooks had befriended Jackson Pollock and Philip Guston, and he worked for federal government programs for artists during the Great Depression years. Brooks’ reputation began to grow, and he was engaged to create a number of important mural commissions in the northeast, in particular at the LaGuardia Marine Art Terminal.

After service in the U.S. Army’s historical section during World War II he returned to New York, and returned to painting in a representational mode, close to synthetic cubism under the influence of Picasso and Matisse. Like many artists at this moment, however, Brooks turned away from representational art and began to experiment with materials, form, and accident. Brooks was one of the first artists to pour paint directly onto unprimed canvas; it was through this kind of experimentation that he produced his first strongly successful abstract paintings.

This shift, characterized by a fluid and forceful depiction of space and bold color, was heavily influenced by Pollock, and made Brooks an integral member of the first wave of post-World War II Abstract Expressionism, a movement which established New York as the new center of the international art world.

James Brooks: A Celebration was organized by the Dallas Museum of Art and curated by Victoria Scott, McDermott Graduate Curatorial Intern, with assistance by Wylie.

Exhibition support is provided by the Contemporary Art Fund through the gifts of an anonymous donor, Arlene and John Dayton, Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Faulconer, Nancy and Tim Hanley, The Hoffman Family Foundation, Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, Evelyn P. and Edward W. Rose, and Gayle and Paul Stoffel.

About the Dallas Museum of Art
The 23,000 works of art in the Museum’s encyclopedic collections span 5,000 years of history and represent all media with renowned strengths in the arts of the ancient Americas, Africa, Indonesia, and South Asia; European and American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts; and American and international contemporary art.

The Dallas Museum of Art is the anchor of the Dallas Arts District and serves as the cultural magnet for the city with diverse programming ranging from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary readings, dramatic and dance presentations, and a full spectrum of programs designed to engage people of all ages with the power and excitement of art.

The Dallas Museum of Art is supported in part by the generosity of Museum members and donors and by the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas/Office of Cultural Affairs and the Texas Commission on the Arts.