Los Angeles

James Brooks

Art Galleries, UCLA

This retrospective exhibition of 42 oils, gouaches and drawings was organized by Sam Hunter for Brandeis University and the Whitney Museum. It spans the period 1947–1962, thereby omitting the artist’s work prior to the age of 41. This makes a consistent exhibition from the artist’s so-called “abstract expressionist” work. Unfortunately 22 additional works seen in the exhibition’s eastern viewings have had to be omitted from the western tour. Their omission from the UCLA show introduces a factor of discontinuity. Cubism, automatism, Pollock and Tomlin are to be recognized as influences which have waxed and waned in Brooks’ esthetic thinking. There is some very impressive painting in this show. It doesn’t seem to be worked in series like so much of American painting today. Each painting appears to have been evolved freshly and without specific reliance on the solution of the prior one. This makes viewing a demanding effort. Each work requires a new exploration on the viewer’s part. Brooks can work in a loosely improvisational way or in an ordered Cubist manner, but his forms seem always to suggest a grave and stately sense of movement. While it is important to have seen this show, it could have been more meaningful to see all 64 pieces and to have the hanging relate more closely to the chronology of the artist’s development. Brooks is a very substantial artist and both he and the public deserved a better showing.

Gerald Nordland