John Brooks
Islands Are Not Forever
February 29–April 13, 2024

MARCH is pleased to announce John Brooks’ second presentation of drawings with the gallery. Islands Are Not Forever consists of fourteen continuous drawings, uniting objects and figures from ancient and recent history.

When asked what role a poet plays in society, Merwin replied: “I think there’s a kind of desperate hope built into poetry now that one really wants, hopelessly, to save the world. One is trying to say everything that can be said for the things that one loves while there’s still time.” The futility of this intention is of little consequence; the irrepressible urge to express, express! has the power to drown all doubts. Yet as some things come into focus, others lose clarity... read more

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 W. S. Merwin is a master of highlighting the small moment, yet in that small moment we also come face to face with our own insignificance and the grandeur of eternity – something beyond our ability to grasp. His poems are existential, and that is how I think about these drawings. They abound with life.

–John Brooks

Detail of John Brooks, Islands Are Not Forever IV, 2023, colored pencil on paper, 75 x 50 inches.

Detail of John Brooks, Islands Are Not Forever VI, 2023, colored pencil on paper, 75 x 50 inches.

Press Release

John Brooks

Islands Are Not Forever

February 29–April 13, 2024

 

“What you remember saves you.”

–W.S. Merwin

When asked what role a poet plays in society, Merwin replied: “I think there’s a kind of desperate hope built into poetry now that one really wants, hopelessly, to save the world. One is trying to say everything that can be said for the things that one loves while there’s still time.” The futility of this intention is of little consequence; the irrepressible urge to express, express! has the power to drown all doubts. Yet as some things come into focus, others lose clarity. Growing hopeful for the future dulls the longing for the past. No matter the angle, something is cut out of the frame.

Islands Are Not Forever holds a mirror to the bewildering complexity of this collective story. Brooks’ drawing debuts with multiple parts, a panoramic landscape inhabited by film stars, artists, and friends, adorned with both personal and cultural motifs, locales, and artistic innuendos. His subjects are selected from past experiences or drawn from life, arranged in an ongoing stream of recollection. The resulting impressions range from forceful to dreamlike: figures in confronting postures demand attention; others drift softly upon the paper, the way an image is summoned from behind closed lids. Spoonbills, known to be fiercely monogamous (but only for a season) emerge alongside Françoise Gilot and Pablo Picasso, Marilyn Monroe, and mysterious unknowns. Elsewhere, men gather––pensive or ecstatic, touching or almost––and all the while, ruins and artifacts sleep among the living, at peace with the inevitability of endings.

John Brooks intends to continue making these drawings for the rest of his life. In that sense, Islands Are Not Forever is an incomplete cycle, a list of ingredients without instructions. Its force is born not only from visual richness, but from its function as a collective mnemonic device, an invitation to the beholder to sit in awe, to make a connection, to follow the path forward, or back. Brooks leaves a trace: remnants of time spent by the sea, a Madagascar boa, the signs of Hollywood and a humble hair salon, List’s photographs, Hockney’s painting, ancient busts, fragments of Berlin, a self-portrait, and birds––so many birds.

Born in central Kentucky in 1978, Brooks studied political science and English literature at the College of Charleston, South Carolina. His work has been exhibited in the United States and Europe and is held in the collections of Grinnell College Museum of Art, The University of Kentucky Medical Center, OZ Arts, 21C, Beth Rudin DeWoody / The Bunker, and numerous other private collections. The New York Review of Books, The Yale Review, and Action, Spectacle have published his paintings and drawings. Brooks’ poetry has been published by Pilot Press, and in Good River Review, Assaracus, East by Northeast, and Plainsongs. He has written for BOMB, Strange Fire Collective, Ruckus Journal, and UnderMain. Over the last two decades, he spent several years in London and Chicago and has been based in Louisville, Kentucky since late 2013. From 2017-2022, Brooks operated Quappi Projects, a contemporary art gallery focusing on exhibiting work reflecting the zeitgeist, where he curated over twenty-five exhibitions.

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