Something More Than Time Has Passed With Eric Brooks

Over the past five years, much more than time has passed between my business partner, Eric Brooks, and me. Not only have I had the pleasure of building a beautiful friendship and business with him, I’ve watched him become the consummate, community collaborator. And now I get to watch him grow as an artist. I’ve attended all of his receptions and probably have been one of the biggest critics of his art. And now he’s got a new body of work that on exhibit at Beckwith Gallery, which is titled “Something More Than Time Has Passed Here.”

Before the hubbub at his opening reception, I got a sneak preview of some of his abstract paintings. Eric refers to his technique as éclabousser, a French term meaning to splatter or splash. I’m not really certain that term fits these orderly, compartmentalized expressions. But the term he uses to describe these colorful paintings does fit – geometrical landscape abstractions. He wants you to imagine you’re in the window seat in an airplane, looking down at the calculated patterns of the landscape, be it an urban or rural environment. (I must say I’ve always been intrigued by those designs when flying.) Eric says those mile-high landscape patterns are a metaphor for how we live our lives. And they definitely are indicative of the way he’s lived – up to now.

Eric moved to Reno in December 2012 from Edinburgh, Scotland, where he helped manage an arts collective called The Forest Cafe. After years of moving around, he had decided that Reno was where he was going to put down roots. Much like his artwork, he was in search of structure.

“I’m not saying I was structured,” he said. “I needed to get drunk, smoke a pack of cigarettes, and listen to shitty, depressing music. I was looking for nourishment in lots of other places.”

His 2016 show at NeverEnder Gallery called “I Used To Be In Love, Now I Do Jigsaw Puzzles. Let’s Just Fuck,” with its chaotic patterns and blurred lines, reflected that.

But the 30 pieces in this show, which range from 6”x6” to 72”x48”, are cleaner with deliberate lines. He’s taking his time as he applies those layers of acrylic paint against the grain, while blending in oil and solvents.

“They create a sentimental attachment and have the power to tell a story and bring life to wherever they hang,” he said.

And what a storyteller he is.

To accompany his urbanscapes, he wrote a limited-edition story: “The darkness holds you like canyons falling to light – A cowboy, noir, love story.”

“Once the series has been named, I spend time with each piece after it’s completion, to find a hidden structure,” Eric said. “It can be a flurry of lines showing under bright light, or the slightest blur forming a familiar face or shadow. From there, I fabricate a story within the story to give an external framework to the viewer.”

The story within these pieces is strong and I look forward to seeing what this dark cowboy does next.

His paintings will be up at least through July. To spend time with his work, grasp his story, and hopefully purchase a piece for your collection, gallery owner Anicia Beckwith said all you have to do is call to make an appointment (775-432-1172). She’ll have the champagne chilled and ready to pour.

Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator

Places In Between

Think about the landscape in which you grew up. What images come to mind in clarity and which seem to fade behind the haze of time and forgetfulness? When I think about growing up in Nevada, the clear image of a 7/11 “Big Gulp” and the landscape of Pyramid Lake is superimposed over the foggy memories of apartment building sprinklers, hissing at night during the summer. When painter, Ewoud De Groot thinks of his personal landscape, images of swooping owls and ice-covered scenes come to mind. Except, his rendition of these landscapes is not wholly grounded in reality or in the intricate details of overt realism.

The exhibition, A Brush With Nature, presents De Groot’s abstracted and imagined renderings of the landscapes he is most familiar with juxtaposed with images of wildlife—most often birds. It is easy to dismiss these works as pointillist wildlife paintings, however, in conversing with the artist, I came to view them not as depicting a real or literal place in time, but rather as metaphors for his memories of these places and the animals that inhabit them.  

When viewing the works in person I was struck by the glow and layering of the paint, the expressive gestural marks, and even the textured surfaces created from the process of letting the paintings dry outside. All of these components capture the very nature of memory: it’s layers, its malleability, and its moments of clarity and moments of haze. Ultimately the paintings in A Brush With Nature bring together the relationship between representation/abstraction and fantasy/reality in order to create an atmospheric image that evokes a sense of place that goes beyond literal illustration.

Don’t sell these paintings short; in an age in which we increasingly consume art through our digital devices, it seems as if only the art that is overtly controversial or aesthetically slick captures our second-long attention spans and gets our likes. De Groot’s paintings don’t buy into these trends; his paintings are carefully crafted and are the result of his many experiments and playful manipulation of paint, and thus they require the viewer to slow down and most importantly to be in physical proximity to them in order to fully experience them.

If you go:

What:  “A Brush With Nature” exhibit by Ewoud De Groot

When:  May 10 – June 9, 2018

Where:  Stremmel Gallery, 1400 S Virginia St.

 

By Häsler R. Gómez 

Rated P.G. for Pretty Gay

I’ll never forget the first time I walked into DePaul Vera’s studio, one, because of how many dicks lined the walls, but two because of his infectious energy that electrified the room whenever he spoke about his work. Hailing from a small town in Kentucky (Cadiz), Vera felt unable to make the work that he longed to create while studying at Murray State University; so when he moved to Reno to attend the University of Nevada, Reno’s Master of Fine Arts program, he went a little (dick) crazy. Fast-forward three years; Vera now presents MY SOUL TO KEEP,” a representation of his growth as an artist and the culmination of his three years of study.

MY SOUL TO KEEP” avoids simple classification; equal parts archive, collage, and interactive installation, the exhibition is made up of personal ephemera, collected images, digitally rendered collages, works on paper, flags, and a loose recreation of the artist’s childhood bedroom including a bed, porn, and a Nintendo 64 which the viewer is invited to play. Play actually seems to be the ethos of the exhibition; the looseness and lack of slick, defined lines give the exhibition an air of innocence that is immediately put on edge by explicit nudity, “vulgar” phrases, and highly charged political imagery. In many ways, “MY SOUL TO KEEP” functions like a personal Tumblr, a scrapbook, an I Spy book, or even the walls of a teenager’s bedroom.

The layering of images and texts—in any section you may be asked to make sense of memes, images of the KKK, gay porn, and Lindsay Lohan crying next to a burrito—is what makes “MY SOUL TO KEEP” so complex and compelling. Rather than reducing his existence to the prescribed stereotypes that often define and dictate queerness, Vera presents every aspect of what it means/could mean to be gay, black, American, and male in any and all combinations.

It’s not often that an artist presents something with such honesty. “MY SOUL TO KEEP” avoids the gimmicky pitfalls of contemporary (queer) art and speaks with sincerity. I don’t have enough space to fully capture the depth of Vera’s oeuvre, you just have to go see it, experience it, and then go back multiple times, you might cry, you might have a panic attack, or you might laugh a little bit too much.

 

If you go:

What: “My Soul to Keep,” DePaul Vera’s MFA Thesis Exhibition

When: The exhibit runs April 16 – 26. The reception will be April 19, from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Where: Student Galleries South, in the Jot Travis Building, University of Nevada, Reno

 

By  Häsler R. Gómez