American painter, born in St Louis, Missouri. He studied at Dallas Art Institute, 1925–6, and at the *Art Students League, New York, 1927–31. During the 1930s and early 1940s he worked with the *Federal Art Project in a *Social Realist vein, creating some impressive murals. The largest one, the 70-metre-long Flight (1942) at La Guardia Airport, New York, was painted over in the 1950s but was restored in 1980.
Brooks served in the US Army, 1942–5, and when he resumed painting in 1945 he took up *Cubism. In 1946 he became a friend of Jackson *Pollock and in the 1950s he was one of the minor masters of the *Abstract Expressionist movement. A typical work of this period is Boon (1957, Tate) which Brooks described as ‘completely abstract—having been developed from a purely improvised start and held into a non-figurative channel’. The art critic Thomas Hess argued that the relationships in his painting were a metaphor for the ‘conflict between spontaneous and deliberate behaviour’. In 1963 he was artist in residence at the American Academy in Rome.
Text Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)