James Brooks ( American, 1906 - 1992 )
The tension between figuration and abstraction, between the merest outline of an animal-like figure that appears to be transforming into a barely discernable landscape of rolling hills, shows the artist loosening up. The awkward jagged lines and smudges of his early drawings are replaced here with fluid shapes and bold, broad gestures. This graceful study coincides with a breakthrough in Brooks' artistic practice. In 1947, while reworking a painting by applying collage elements, the artist turned over the canvas to find on the other side a series of compelling shapes produced by the absorption of the glue directly into the canvas. Brooks was so enamored by the vitality of these forms that he began experimenting with this new technique, which was heavily influenced by the surrealist practice of "automatism" or unconscious drawing. Though the American artist Helen Frankenthaler is often credited with inventing this new staining technique, which involved the paint being applied directly into the raw canvas, it was in fact Brooks who first developed this procedure. Unlike Pollock's "drip" technique, which rested on the surface of the canvas, with Brooks' method the pigment is absorbed into the weave of the canvas itself.