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Minimalism is More

Sobeca’s latest installation, Jamie Brooks Fine Art, brings simple luxury to O.C.

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Jamie Brooks’ namesake gallery features minimalist art like Pard Morrison’s “That is About It Except for Everything Else.”

The creative world of Orange County is thriving and diverse, filled with styles that span from contemporary and avant-garde to classic and traditional. And now, we can count minimalism among those genres, thanks to the new Jamie Brooks Fine Art gallery. Situated in Costa Mesa’s Sobeca District—an up-and-coming hub that’s an acronym for South On Bristol, Entertainment, Culture and Art—the venue is the brainchild of Jamie Brooks, a Canadian and recent Santa Fe transplant who is on a mission to make his space a distinctive fixture for nascent, midcareer and reputable artists. Like his commercial neighbor, Alex Amador of DAX Gallery, Brooks is part of a new crop of leaders eager to fuse education, ingenuity and community into a model that energizes and inspires the creative industry, students and aficionados.

“Peter Blake down in Laguna has a similar program, but in the Newport Beach [and Costa Mesa] area, there’s nothing like this,” says Brooks. “I wanted to bring midcareer and established artists from around the United States and introduce people to new art—to art I think is meaningful and interesting.”

That art, of course, is minimalism. “It evokes an emotion,” Brooks says of the style, which, by his definition, “reduces concepts to their most simplistic form.”

A big part of Brooks’ master plan is to blaze a trail for emerging painters, designers and sculptors. Although he spent more than a decade “sculpting” and designing homes—he even fashioned the gallery’s high-concept chrome bathroom fixtures—Brooks, a self-proclaimed “recreational artist,” most values celebrating and showcasing the work of his artistic brethren. Since rolling up the warehouse-like doors to his airy, Corten steel-walled studio, he’s created several programs and events to draw in the O.C. arts community, including turning over his space to a group of millennial apprentices. “I let them completely curate the show. I took everything down; I gave them the gallery,” says Brooks. “It was a great thing to be able to help young people become more involved in the arts.”

In addition, Brooks has created what he calls a weekly “life drawing” class, where novices and practicing artists alike can develop or sharpen their skills, and he’s been in talks with Sotheby’s Institute at Claremont Graduate University about a potential lecture series featuring its students.

Exhibits are in the lineup too—from July 10 to Aug. 8, the venue is highlighting the work of New York’s Warren Isensee, whose large-scale, grid-based art is created by hand instead of masking tape like many other artists. “He has a wonderful sense of color and form. He’s the big fish that’s in the next show in terms of established artists,” Brooks says. Also part of the venue’s slate of summer artists: Joseph Cohen from Houston, who is known for using reclaimed paint in his designs. “He’s eco-conscious,” adds Brooks. “He creates these paintings where he puts layers and layers of paint on, mixed with different precious metals like gold dust, platinum, silver. It’s really beautiful.”

Although educating and offering access to the next generation of creatives is a critical part of Brooks’ business, he also shares and sells his brand of art as a secondary market dealer. He offers collectors a chance to own otherwise out-of-circulation pieces from established artists like Agnes Martin. The fellow Canadian-American painter is one of his favorites; she was even among those who participated in his inaugural exhibit, Outline: Beyond the Grid. Says Brooks: “She is probably one of the premier painters that no one’s ever heard of in the world.”

And to those who say simplicity can’t be luxurious, Brooks believes a second look may be necessary. “In our society right now, there’s a simplification [process] that people are going through—whether it’s possessions or certain possessions,” he says. “Part of that process, I think, is choosing art that is like this.”

As for the future, Brooks’ goal is to show off the unexpected. “[You’ll] see new, fresh artists and arts... that previously weren’t here,” he says. “Normally you would have to go to New York or L.A. to see this kind of gallery. I’m trying to bring the big city to [Orange County].”