Louis Buhl & Co. is pleased to present Popular Psychedelic Molecules, Rendered With Atomic Precision, Using Hippie Tapestries, a solo exhibition of one-of-a-kind works by San Diego-based artist Kelsey Brookes. Heavily influenced by a background in biochemistry, Brookes’ creations are a meditative exploration of molecular mapping, filled with color and intricate line work. Popular Psychedelic Molecules, Rendered With Atomic Precision, Using Hippie Tapestries will feature a series of cut and sewn Indian tapestries mounted on shaped strainer bars that form various sequences of molecular diagrams. Highlighting this new technique, the exhibition with Louis Buhl & Co. will be the first time Brookes has presented works of this kind.

Brookes studied microbiology at Colorado State University and spent his first years after graduation working in a research lab at the Center for Disease Control. However unlikely ‘scientist-turned-artist’ might sound, Brookes’ tendency towards experimentation was the catalyst in becoming a full-time painter. Brookes moved towards abstraction after playing with stream-of-consciousness processes that meld molecular diagrams with meditative optics. “Anything having to do with the brain is interesting to me; I have lots of curiosity and questions concerning existence, both philosophically and scientifically, and because of my background, a good place to start my interrogation of life is through the brain,” says Brookes. Combining the artistic and empirical sides of the mind, he creates unique works that find a rare place in the art world. 

Living in the dorms his freshman year at college, Brookes noticed a common pattern among those experimenting with consciousness-altering drugs: many had mandala tapestries hanging somewhere in their room, often over a bed or on the back of the door. Says Brookes: “[these tapestries] were like a universal symbol of open-mindedness or counter-cultural acceptance.” After a series of failed attempts to make a diagram of an LSD molecule using tie-dye, Brookes was reminded of these symbolic tapestries and felt inspired to experiment with the fabric and imagery to bring his idea to life. In the series featured, handmade Indian tapestries were cut up and sewn back together to bring focus to the location of atoms within the psychoactive molecules Brookes investigates. Through this process, he utilizes antique fabrics to forge uniquely distinct compositions that inspire new meaning. Rather than relying on a traditional square or rectangular shaped support, Brookes has stretched the tapestries over shaped strainer bars, curious to see the form each molecule would create. The result is surprising; once airy and delicate, the tapestries are transformed as if carved out of a solid surface. In the exhibition, the viewer is presented with both a molecular map of psychoactive chemicals as well as a simulation of their effects made possible through the use of vintage film monitors. Brookes’ incorporation of digital technology — combined with the physicality of the works — creates a hallucinogenic, out-of-the-ordinary experience. 

Art and science are often — and Brookes feels, incorrectly — viewed as opposing poles of a creative continuum. Popular Psychedelic Molecules, Rendered With Atomic Precision, Using Hippie Tapestries continues to challenge this notion; not only does the inspiration for the works stem from biochemistry, but Brookes’ complex assemblage process also follows scientific thought. Upon gathering a group of consistently colored and high-quality tapestries, Brookes acquainted himself with Voronoi cells — a type of mathematics discovered by Russian mathematician Georgy Voronoy — which allowed him to properly construct the unique shapes of each atom present in the molecules. Brookes carefully plots out the structure of his subject molecules, each atom and point of convergence between the chemical bonds serving as a focal point from which the presented image radiates.

Kelsey Brookes: Popular Psychedelic Molecules, Rendered With Atomic Precision, Using Hippie Tapestries will be on display from January 22 through February 20, 2021.