“Lemon” by Atlanta artist Kyle Brooks.
“Lemon” is a typically confectionery work dolloped with splashes of sunshine yellow featuring a common Brooks motif: totem pole towers of manically smiling faces piled one on top of another like a vertical clown car. The paintings’ titles often seem to derive from their predominant color, so “Baby Blue” is, naturally, awash in the intense blue of CinemaScope swimming pools.
“Baby Blue” in acrylic on canvas by Kyle Brooks.
If traditional folk art often offers instructive morality tales, chiding commands to do better and other religious ranting, Brooks’ kinder, gentler messages are more like a child’s flash card featuring a captivating image and a rudimentary concept. “Busy,” for instance, features a grinning black beaver whose innards are filled with a thicket of colorful trees, as if testifying to his gnawing handiwork. The operative concept is, I suppose, busyness. That busyness extends from the frantic circumstance of the painting itself, filled with its many vibrating-with-color creatures, to the work of our eyeballs, deliriously scanning the painting surface, taking in all of the phantasmagorical action.
Atlanta neo-folk artist Kyle Brooks, known as “Black Cat Tips,” is the subject of the solo show “A Bowl Full of Happiness,” featuring “The Talking Mountain Woods,” at Spalding Nix Fine Art.
A particularly delightful work for its mix of order and chaos is “Son of Man,” featuring a calm, beatific infant figure at the painting’s center, surrounded by a rainbow placenta. That grinning baby is flanked by two figures, parents perhaps, expectantly awaiting their bundle of joy. That sort of representational satisfaction present in so much figurative painting is rare in Brooks’ work. More often, viewers have to settle for abstract notions of delight and distraction. The paintings are the visual art equivalent of a trip to the circus or a spin on the merry-go-round — you simply surrender to the fun.
IN RELATED NEWS:
Folk Art Park, GDOT's first public art project and created in 1996 as part of the city's Olympics projects, reopened today after renovations. Art works representing 23 contemporary folk artists from five southeastern states are on display.
Brooks has described himself as a “street folk artist,” says his gallerist Spalding Nix, and his work is very much a clash of quirky hipster visuals and the disconcerting cheeriness and unified lexicon of Southern folk artists. Some of the happiness-on-overdrive can feel a bit like a put-on; a willful desire to beat Southern folk artists at their own demonically cheerful, self-taught game. But ultimately, who cares when art offers such escapist charm in an often charmless world?
“A Bowl Full of Happiness”
Through Sept. 1. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. Spalding Nix Fine Art, the Galleries of Peachtree Hills, 425 Peachtree Hills Ave. NE, Building 5, Suite 30-A. 404-841-7777, www.spaldingnixfineart.com.
Bottom line: The bowl is always half full in the ebullient, fun-filled work "A Bowl Full of Happiness" by Atlanta street folk artist Kyle Brooks.