Come Back As A Flower: Brianna Rose Brooks @ Deli Gallery, NYC

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Deli Gallery is pleased to present Come Back As A Flower, a solo exhibition of new paintings and works on paper by Brianna Rose Brooks, marking the artist’s second solo presentation with the gallery.

Brianna Rose Brooks paints from personal memory and fantasy to depict amalgamated moments from childhood, teenage years, and recent adulthood. The artist explores the perspectives of a number of different story tellers ranging from childlike to mad, to caricatural to challenge conceptions of these subjects as unreliable narrators. This new body of work captures images from the artist’s recollection, the paintings serving as souvenirs and portals into the past to explore memories before they change shape again. Have you ever revisited a memory so many times that you can barely remember it at all? Brooks’s work aims to take pause with fleeting memories perhaps to uncover details lost to time, rather than seeking to restore them to former glory.

In How to Go Mad Without Losing Your Mind: Madness and Black Radical Creativity, a book the artist was reading throughout the process of creating this latest body of work, La Marr Jurelle Bruce writes, “Memory is typically mind’s intermediary between right now and back then, a mnemonic bridge or vehicle that grants cognitive access from the present to the past. [for some.. The past] does not require a mnemonic bridge for access because it is always already here, pressing “hard” weighing heavily, bypassing the mediation of memory and impacting with the same force and immediacy as [the] present”.

Some paintings borrow from the artist’s own memories, but not all. The central figure in Perennial Painting, 2024, wears a nameplate that reads “Brianna”, and anxiously rips tulips from a garden bed. Though the artist leads the viewer to believe in the self portrait, the scene depicted is not a personal experience. The artist uses their own likeness as a supplement within a memory experienced originally as witness. Their embodiment of this gesture is an avenue to explore the recollection in a reflection pool of their own making, fusing time to comb through its opacity.

These new works build upon the past by including earlier motifs from the artist’s oeuvre to further expand the world around recurring symbols and mediums in their practice. In Appointment, 2024, the central figure takes a smoke break outside of a braiding salon. They’re halfway through getting their hair braided. Behind them are blue monochrome images of the salon’s variety of hairstyle offerings. Brooks calls these hair models Patron Saints in an earlier silkscreen from 2017. For the artist, these hair models, which are recurring and standard elements within braiding salon storefronts, give rise to an iconography that calls for veneration and eventual embodiment through hairstyle. Appointment seizes and slows a moment during the process of transformation.

In addition to four new paintings, the exhibition also features several works on paper and collage works. The collage works function symbolically as manifestations of time travel. Sleepy Time Traveler, 2024, contains paper ephemera collected by the artist over time. Layered momentos carried throughout the years across time and place, each charged with historical and sentimental significance. For these collages, the artist has designed metal frames to echo the poetics of vernacular architecture seen in Appointment. The handle design is referential to metal gates found throughout the multiple cities the artist has lived in across years. The objects clinging to each metal frame have histories and private lives beyond the viewer’s grasp. These autonomous objects assembled– once functional keys, mp3 players, souvenirs purchased by loved ones and gifted to the artist– are relics of people and places converging to symbolize the passage of time. Their scratches and signs of use reflect a journey– both theirs, and the artist’s.

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