Khaleb Brooks: Can I Get A Witness July — 13 August, 2022 Gazelli Art House 39 Dover Street London W1S 4NN
Can I Get A Witness, the debut solo exhibition of artist Khaleb Brooks. Brooks is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher and writer exploring blackness, transness and collective memory. Rooted in personal experience, Can I Get A Witness offers a new range of mixed media, oil paintings, installations and sound-based works that chart the various angles and journeys of the artist’s life.
An intimate display of medical scans that memorialise the artist’s body before undergoing gender-affirming surgery is placed alongside mixed media imagery grappling with the historical policing of black women — exploring empowerment as a tool of survival.
Informed by and reflective of Brooks’ characteristically multifaceted approach, the exhibition weaves themes such as femininity, girlhood, queerness, family, and the black church through these elements. Underpinned by the artist’s experience as an International Development practitioner, Can I get A Witness enriches his innovative portfolio, driven by a passion for addressing matters of social justice within the creative sector. Crucially, the exhibition reflects Brooks’ upbringing within a Black, female-led home. Although currently based in London, the artist is originally from Chicago, Illinois.
He explains: “Black women, while making up the majority of congregations in Christian churches across the U.S., and rarely serve as spiritual leaders. The women in the ministry are also entrepreneurs, founders, heads of households, breadwinners; and in the case of my mother: the pastor’s bodyguard”.
Informed by memory and personal circumstance, Can I Get A Witness elucidates and offers testament to positions of power – beyond tilted leadership – held by black women within American church spaces.
More provocatively, where the church is a key pillar of African-American life for many, the exhibition seeks to open dialogue amongst visitors around the impact of religion within Black communities, involving the stigmatisation of sexuality and the erasure of connections to African spiritual practices.
From childhood familial experiences to gender identity and powerful friendships amassed, the previously unseen post-surgery body prints will sit alongside portraits of the artist’s great-grandmother, who hugely influenced their practice in recent residency at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool.
Where the exploration of collective and personal history is integral to Brooks’ work to date, Can I Get A Witness’ intimate points of inquiry mark the counting evolution of their portfolio.