b. Denver, Colorado, 1978, lives and works in San Diego, California
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 lies 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 afar the small characters, shapes, and patterns read as an 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 has been 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.