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Brooks had his first solo show at the Peridot Gallery, New York (1949), and continued to show regularly in New York galleries over the next 30 years. In 1963, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, mounted a retrospective that traveled to the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts; Baltimore Museum of Art; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Washington Gallery of Modern Art, Washington, D.C.; and University of California Art Galleries, Los Angeles.
In 1975, Martha Jackson Gallery and Finch College Museum of Art, New York, jointly organized a retrospective that traveled to Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, New York; Flint Institute of Arts, Grand Rapids Art Museum, and Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, all Michigan; and University of Connecticut, Storrs. Another retrospective was shown at the Portland Museum of Art, Maine (1983). Among major group exhibitions, his work was featured in the Whitney Annual (later the Whitney Biennial), New York (1950, 1951, 1953–55, 1957–59, 1963, 1967); 12 Americans at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1956); and Documenta, Kassel, West Germany (1959). He received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1969). Brooks died on March 9, 1992, in East Hampton.
Courtesy of the Guggenheim, Collection Online
James Brooks, #26, 1952, Gouache on Paper, 28" x 22"
Published March 12, 1992
James Brooks, one of the last of the original generation of Abstract Expressionist painters, died on Monday at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital in Brookhaven, L.I. He was 85 years old and lived in Springs, L.I.
He had Alzheimer's disease since 1985, said his wife, Charlotte Park Brooks.
Known as a lyrical painter, Mr. Brooks was one of the most technically accomplished -- if not the most innovative -- members of the New York School. His skilled, rhythmic compositions of abstract shapes, textures and color values, carefully orchestrated in shallow space on the canvas, brought acclaim from critics as well as several major prizes. One was awarded by the Carnegie International exhibition in 1956 and another by the Art Institute of Chicago in 1957.
A decade later, he was given a full-scale retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, and his work is in the collections of major museums in the United States. A Muralist in the 1930's
During the Depression, Mr. Brooks worked as a muralist for the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration. His best-known creation for the project was "Flight," a mural running some 235 feet around the rotunda of the Marine Air Terminal at La Guardia Airport. The theme is man's impulse to fly, and it portrays famous figures and ideas in the history of flight, going back to Greek mythology. Without explanation, but possibly because some saw left-wing symbolism in it, the mural was painted over in the 1950's under Port Authority jurisdiction. In 1980, after protests from art historians and curators, it was fully restored.
James David Brooks was born in St. Louis on Oct. 18, 1906, and studied art at Southern Methodist University and the Dallas Art Institute. In 1927, he came to New York, where he attended night classes at the Art Students League and worked as a commercial artist by day. In 1936, he joined the Federal Art Project as a muralist, remaining with the project until 1942. From 1942 to 1945, he served with the United States Army as an art correspondent.
On his return to New York, his work turned toward abstraction. In his first one-man show at the Peridot Gallery in 1950, he presented stained and "dripped" canvases, influenced by his close friend Jackson Pollock, in which stains made on the reverse side of the canvas were used to generate "spontaneous" painted shapes on the front.
In 1951, he participated in the historic "Ninth Street Exhibition," an artist-organized show that included the work of Pollock, Hans Hofmann, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell. In 1956, his work was part of the "Twelve Americans" show at the Museum of Modern Art, as well as the Modern's influential "New American Painting" show in 1959, which traveled through Europe.
His wife is his only survivor.
New York. Stable Gallery. "James Brooks," 1957.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Three Centuries of American Painting," April 9–October 17, 1965, unnum. checklist.
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. "James Brooks," May 10–June 25, 1972, no. 15.
New York. Sidney Mishkin Gallery, Baruch College. "Reclaiming Artists of the New York School: Toward a More Inclusive View of the 1950s," March 18–April 22, 1994, unnumbered cat. (p. 12).
Mexico City. Centro Cultural Arte Contemporáneo. "Pintura Estadounidense Expresionismo Abstracto," October 11, 1996–January 12, 1997, no. 7.