JULY 25 - SEPTEMBER 26, 2014


Kelsey Brookes is a former biochemist who attributes his raw style to an education system “that refuses to teach scientists to draw.” He abandoned biochemistry because, “I thought I was going to be there for a few months to get myself some money. Three years later I was left wondering if I had become what I always despised – the funny guy at the water cooler … except not so funny. I was the confused, not so funny guy at the water cooler.” Science’s loss is art’s gain. The work’s potency arguably lie’s in the way its clash of ancient and ultra-modern references downplay the sex and death, which are featured heavily in the work. Brookes describes his art as “an unrefined and, some would say, unskilled mix of sex, comedy and animals which is derived from a true passion for all three, except not necessarily all at the same time.” Coming from a background in molecular biology, Brookes’ newest series of work has taken his knowledge of scientific drawings and expanded them into candy-colored and monochrome paintings that explore molecular structure.

Kelsey Brookes' work exhibits a strong and unique interplay with figure, abstract forms and text. Brookes’ work increases the sense of awe and wonder found in his signature style with a “loosening” of the figure – where once the female forms had sharply defined contours and rendered details, they are now symbolic canvases for his seemingly limitless constellation of brightly colored micro scenes and characters. The work presents a captivating aura – from a far the small characters, shapes and patterns read as a more or less abstract swirl of color. Up close, the smiley faces and characters engage in all sorts of activity rewarding the careful viewer with a clear sense of joy. This plethora of reference points is usually executed with a central figure surrounded with an aura of objects, animals and plants.

Brookes has had recent solo exhibitions in Malibu, Los Angeles, London and Berlin. His work is currently being featured as the cover art for the Red Hot Chili Peppers newest record release. The artist has also teamed up for illustration work with the likes of RVCA, VANS, and Insight 51. Brookes has been featured in numerous pop culture and design publications such as GQ, Modern Painters, ARTnews, Playboy, Paper, Juxtapoz, Beautiful Decay, Dazed and Confused, RE:UP, and HUCK. Most recently Brookes was featured in the publication SKULL STYLE: Skulls in Contemporary Art and Design as well as GO WEST!: Cutting-edge creative in the United States. His work now also belongs in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

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A former biologist, Kelsey Brookes has shifted his focus to explosive, kaleidoscopic paintings that draw from his fascinations with microbiomes, plant life and molecular structures. Brookes states that “The brain and its product, the mind, are a fascinating subject; I question existence, both philosophically and scientifically, and because of my background, a good place to start my interrogation of life is through the material science of the brain.” Through both meditative abstraction and a conceptual examination of the hallucinogenic properties of certain molecules on the brain (LSD, mescaline, ritalin, MDMA to name a few), Brookes grounds his work in the relationship between consciousness and physicality. Such grounds are rife with possibilities for abstraction, but it is the connection his imagery has to scientific study that makes it so fascinating.Brookes has had solo exhibitions in Detroit, La Jolla, Los Angeles, New York, London and Berlin. His work is included in private and public collections, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the Frederick R. Weisman Foundation.

Sara Nickleson | Library Street Collective |