Mon 9 Oct 2023 to Fri 1 Dec 2023
Mon-Fri 11am-6pm by appointment
Curated by Arianna Nourse
Added to list
Curator’s note: Chosen Family Matters
It’s TGIF night on ABC in 1991, and I’ve just witnessed my favourite character on television ride a jet pack from his home on Family Matters to the front door of Full House, another show entirely. Americans born in the 80s know that before the Avengers met in the multiplex multiverse, Steve Urkel fell from the sky into Stephanie Tanner’s San Francisco Victorian. An alien travelling through time and space to help a kindred spirit.
Technically, Brianna Rose Brooks and Leyla Faye first encountered each other in 2019, at art school. Technically, too, their works differ greatly. And yet, inevitably, the two were compared and critiqued, and then encouraged to compete. They were, moreover, even confused for one another (IYKYK). It was 2020, 2021, and eyes were on them. Their own eyes, meanwhile, locked across a lecture room and oft provided a knowing solace. Each had arrived in this place with their bags and selves alone. They did the best they could. Indeed, they did very well. Still, even as we exhale, we can allow ourselves to ask: what if? What if they had met before? What encouragement and safety could each have provided the other on the road to right now?
In A Requiem for Benevolent Beasts, Brooks and Faye send their respective likenesses back in time for an intimate redrawing of their earlier worlds. Throughout the exhibition of new work, the artists’ childhood avatars share a confabulatory gossip, a lamentation, and a celebration across one gallery space.
Both artists see early life as an arena of precarity and risk taking; united, Brooks and Faye refute sentimental claims of childhood as a site of purity. In one drawing, a child sensuously explores the fecund Earth with a magnifying glass, a gesture of body curiosity that many would recognise from childhood bedrooms. In a separate painting, a kneeling protagonist provocatively alphas a Doberman pinscher. Arched back, eyes staring straight, the child overwhelms the animal, forcing the dog to turn away.
It is often through interaction with smaller critters and creatures that children come to realise their own power: they can caress gingerly, they can dominate, they can even snuff out. Two Faye- doppelgängers, rendered meticulously in graphite, contemplate a limp bird, the circumstances of whose death we cannot know with certainty. One tenderly offers the corpse to the earth; the other looks on in horror at the finality the two themselves may have caused just moments before. Elsewhere, a more loosely drawn pair of trainers by Brooks are thrown over telephone wires, an urban record of a life now ended. Within the memorial space of the shoe, three baby birds in a nest cry out alive. From death, an unexpected genesis; and across the works, the birth of a certain wisdom.
The exhibition functions as a call and response, most pointedly when the child avatars speak between two paintings via their bedroom windows. A Brooks character, realised via subtle spraypaint and an expert placement of hue, answers a tin can phone. A neighbour, photorealistically resembling Faye, uses her own can to relay a Top Secret message. Previously siloed in their rooms, the imagined children are subsequently connected by umbilical phone cord, each offering the another respite from a domesticity of isolation. Mouth covered by hand, and two widened eyes: an interspace kiki between canvases. Have you HEARD what happened this morning....? The answer is for their ears alone.
Across our canvases the skies are pink and yellow; it is sunset in this multiverse, but the child doesn’t want to go home. Each one seeking and searching for something more, hands outstretched for connection and relief. Be assured that you will find it, child, in a future where chosen family matters, too.
©️Arianna Nourse 2023
Brianna Rose Brooks (b. 1997, Providence, Rhode Island) is an American artist whose work investigates themes of black representation, love and vulnerability as they continually shift through public and private memory and thought. Often manifested in the emotionally charged nonlinear space of a diary or journal, the work incorporates abstract narratives and microcosmic allegories of adolescence, intimacy, and self-reflection, as well as more formidable and antagonistic sentiments of anger, fear, longing, and dependence.
Brooks received their BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and their MFA in Painting from the Yale School of Art in New Haven in 2021. In 2023 they were a resident artist at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Recent solo exhibitions include Deli Gallery Presents: Brianna Rose Brooks at Nino Meir Gallery, Los Angeles, CA and Love You Coz You Always Tell the Truth, at Deli Gallery, New York, NY and group exhibitions at Collaborations, Copenhagen, DE and Gladstone Gallery, New York, NY. They currently live and work in New York, NY.
Leyla Faye (b. 1994, Minneapolis, Minnesota) uses painting as a meditation to explore moments of wholeness within a hyphenated identity. Inspired by ideas of shape-shifting, Faye employs mundane and discarded materials which she transforms into textural landscapes and psychic environments. The figures in her narratives do a balancing act between explorations of performance and belonging as an attempt to merge the boundaries of their amnesic realities.
Faye received her BFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and her MFA in Painting and Printmaking at the Yale School of Art in New Haven. Recent solo exhibitions include Trust Fall at Company Gallery in New York and group exhibitions at Adler Beatty, New York; Karma International, Zürich; Lyles & King Gallery, New York; and Almine Rech Gallery, Brussels. Her work has been acquired by the public collection of the X Museum in Beijing, China. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.