Bryson Brooks
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Bryson Brooks

San Antonio, TX | Established. Jan 01, 1975 | INDIE

San Antonio, TX | INDIE
Established on Jan, 1975
Solo Hip Hop

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"Sunrise Over Booty"

Sunrise over booty
By Callie Enlow
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The first time I heard local visual artist Franklin Bryson Brooks rap was after a benefit at Blue Star Contemporary Art Center last spring. I was steadying myself from the effects of too much free vodka when Brooks, having also enjoyed a few beverages, asked if I wanted to hear his rap song. “Seriously?” I laughed. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “It’s called ‘Put That Booty up on That Speaker.’ It’s about putting your booty up on the speaker.”

Sold! I followed Brooks back to the nearby loft he shares with partner in marriage and art, Holly Hein. There, a small group of people listened to Brooks’ song played directly off his computer. The boho painter wasn’t lying; that track was all about booty. Over minimalist beats, Brooks cooed, “Work that thing, girl, get that dough. I wanna see, girl, what you know.” The rest of the song flowed like a rhyming Kama Sutra instructional for club kids. When it ended, I remember being surprised at how much it sounded … legit. “You wanna hear another?” asked Brooks, “I have like a whole album.”

That was my personal introduction to Brooks the rapper. Before, I had only known of Brooks the artist, who had built a successful career with Hein as painters and performance artists. Their live portraiture of each other, conducted in full costume at public events like Luminaria and Chalk It Up draws in kids, average Joes, and San Antonio’s art aficionados alike. Not sure if Brooks’ song about licking Iraqi women under their burkas will have the same mass appeal.


We’ll see. Brooks just issued his own extremely limited release of an eight-song album entitled Booty Sunrise, marking the debut with an impromptu freestyle performance at a Blue Star Labs’ art opening in late August. Though the rap career is new, Brooks has a long history with professional music. As a child, his mother was a choir director and Brooks confesses participating in several musicals. After completing his BFA at University of Texas, Brooks moved to Mexico City in the late ’90s and started a punk rock band called Los Arm Strings, which hit big in Serbia, of all places. Brooks continued his musical projects when he returned to the States, including his San Antonio-based solo project Franky Truth and the Outlet. “I just kind of hit a wall with it and stopped playing the punk rocky kind of thing,” says Brooks back in his loft last week. “I wanted to make something that was more controlled. So I just started making hip-hop music.” Over the next few years, Brooks worked sporadically with friend Mike Bailey, who produced the beats, compiling a backlog of dozens of hip-hop tracks. Brooks, 35, doesn’t view his rap enthusiasm as all that weird. Wearing a James Brown t-shirt, he explains that he moved to Augusta, Ga., in middle school, where freestyling and breakdancing were already standard playground activities. “I kind of grew up around Ice-T and the Beastie Boys and all that stuff in the ’80s,” he says. He rattles off a list of his favorite artists, Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Ice Cube, 50 Cent, and Snoop Dogg among others, as well as white rap enigmas Die Antwoord and Mickey Avalon.

Brooks still incorporates his 15-plus year art career. “It’s hip-hop, I guess, but in a lot of ways I look at it as performance art,” says the former student of Linda Montano, pioneer of life/art performances. He’s chosen not to devise an alter ego, and to rap simply under his middle name, Bryson. Though his rhyming and persona is often funny, the concept isn’t a joke. “I don’t want it to be something that’s fabricated. … It’s not like an Ali G kind of thing,” he says. “A lot of it has to do with my childhood, it’s how people acted and talked in Georgia. I kind of just go into it. I guess it’s a conscious thing, but it’s not like, ‘Oh, I’m just going to turn it on.’ It’s not acting.” Brooks’ humor is more a direct extension of his personality, he says, and is more “real” than getting into gangsta rap. “It’s not so … hateful, sleazy, or angry,” he says, “I don’t really identify with it. I just kind of want to dance, be funny, point at how it’s all put together … I don’t want to say satirical. I think it’s honest. Honestly funny.”

Because Brooks isn’t terribly concerned about crafting an image, he can access a remarkably quick wit. Last month, he recorded a song with friend Carlos Herrera, a musician and teacher who spent his summer break producing music. Brooks visited Herrera in the studio just as he was struggling with a song. “It was a dilemma, I didn’t know what to do with that song,” says Herrera by phone. “He came in, had a sip of beer and was like, ‘Alright, I’m just going to go.’” The result is “Freaky Girl,” a four-minute-long track featuring Herrera’s synth-rock instrumentals behind Brooks’ rapping in a nasal, sing-song cadence that’s already made its way to Lava Lounge and Limelight DJ nights. His lyrics are both dirty and silly. “I’m gonna put that butt in flight, I’m gonna split that tree alright, I’m gonna screw that thing in tight, I’m gonna make that doggie bite,” he raps, before launching into alternate choruses about the title subject: “P-A-R-T-Y, that girl ain’t got no alibi,” is one; German-tinged “eins, zwei, drei, vier, get that girl a Lone Star beer,” is another.

Both Hererra and Brooks agree that their collaboration, to be continued later this fall, is the next level for Brooks the rapper, though they both wonder how to get the music out to a wider audience. “Do I take it to 98.5 The Beat and say, ‘Put it on the radio’?” jokes Brooks. For now the artist is content to keep his performances to the gallery scene he frequents and watch it grow. “It’s all been building off of each other and kind of taking its own course into bigger and bigger things,” says Brooks. “Now it’s like, I want a platinum record. I don’t want to rap into a laptop anymore. Give me the mic!” • -


"ART-IN-MOTION"

Bryson Brooks: Local and Internationally Renowned Artist.Bryson Brooks was born in Denton, Texas, 1975, and completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Austin in 1997. Following his graduation he moved to Mexico City and ran a gallery while creating both collaborative and individual works of art in the medium of painting and performance art. He returned to Texas in 2003, where he worked in his private studios at the Blue Star Arts Complex, producing a series of very popular western, abstract and surreal paintings

In addition to painting, he has excelled in performance art, appearing in numerous solo and group performance shows throughout the last 15 years, including performances with Snoop Dogg, Lil’ Flip, Mickey Avalon, and others. Awards and accolades include receiving the Art Pace Travel Grant for performance art in Berlin, where he recorded with Gordon Raphael, known for recording such acts as The Strokes. In addition, he has both organized and participated in various gallery shows and foundations in Mexico City throughout the past two decades. His work can be found represented in numerous private and public collections, galleries, museums, universities and public foundations, both nationally and internationally. He currently lives and works in San Antonio, TX.

Bryson states, “Studying painting and performance art at UT in Austin led me to create events that coupled the two. Painting in front of audiences in what I call ‘Painting Performances.’ It became obvious that these Painting Performances fit perfectly into the celebrations during marriage receptions. Not only do the events get put onto canvas; people are entertained by the painting process. It is a really rewarding feeling bringing art and entertainment to the celebration of love and union.” -


"An Interview With Bryson Brooks"

Bryson Brooks is a painter and performance artist based in San Antonio. He has been known to wear faux fur.

Hills Snyder: Can you trace your interest in Western art?

Bryson Brooks: I took a class on Western art at U.T. in the ’90s. I became very interested in how painters like Russell were so diametrically opposed to Modernism. I remember seeing a drawing from Russell’s sketchbook of him standing in front of a Cubist painting with the statement, “Makes me feel like I just ate a cold duck!” I had a good laugh and was hooked after that.

HS: Your anecdote re: seeing the Russell sketchbook calls to mind Norman Rockwell’s 1962 painting Abstract Concrete. Any other realist painters you’d care to name as important to you?

BB: The paintings of N.C. Wyeth, Remington, and Thomas Cole have all been inspirational to me. I have spent a lot of time looking at Thomas Eakins’ work; particularly Home Ranch, Cowboys in the Badlands, and Four-in-Hand—May Morning in the Park. I guess it depends on how you define Western art. I see Benjamin West as the granddaddy of Western paintings set in America, with works such as The Death of General Wolfe. I look at Western art as the evolution of History Painting—this explains the conflict with Modernism.

Fly Fishing
Fly Fishing
HS: The Modernist critique of realism certainly conflicts with Western art, but there is a place where they overlap: a belief in progress. Where does this put your work?

BB: I live in a world that cannot afford the luxury of progress. There are so few homes where the buffalo roam that they discontinued the nickel.

HS: So I take it then that even if you were to stand on a stack of nickels you would not be able to change clothes in a phone booth?

BB: Ha! Maybe if it was Doctor Who’s police box.

Songs in the Square
Songs in the Square
HS: Have you heard of Dave Hickey’s strategy, to go back to “when things didn’t suck” and start there? Does this apply to what you’re up to?

BB: That’s funny that you bring that up. I was just reading a Facebook post where he talks about that, and it is an approach that I completely agree with. It becomes complicated though because the tradition that one inherits becomes a box that it is extremely hard to escape. One’s place in history is a lens that defines how you understand the meaning of art, as well as the role of artists in society. This lens changes through the passing of time. Because of the state of the world today, I think artists have a social responsibility that is now more pertinent than it was a hundred years ago. Joseph Beuys’s piece The Silence of Marcel Duchamp is Overrated, for instance, changed the way I think about art.

Crossing the Rio Grande
Crossing the Rio Grande
HS: I don’t see it so much in your earlier Western paintings, but in [the] group at AnArte Gallery I see some Franco Mondini-Ruiz influence. Do you feel that way?

BB: He has always influenced me. I have been friends with him for more than half of my life. A lot of his work has a narrative element to it. The western paintings I was previously making did not have a narrative aspect to them, so in that way my new paintings relate to his work in a way they did not before. The first large-scale westerns I made were paintings of cropped images of Richard Prince’s cowboy series in which he had taken pictures of other photographers’ photos. This body of work led me to work on western paintings that were based on photos. They were more about a moment than a story.

HS: You and Franco share another tendency too: to blur the line between the things you make and the lives you live. I think for each of you there is a distant horizon. Or to put it another way, you seem to carry a sense of scale. Can you find a question here?

BB: I think of Franco as a performance artist. I concentrated on performance art in school. I studied under Linda Montano [at UT Austin] and she is still a major influence on my work. Her method of making art your life is still a method I use today.

Western Spring
Western Spring
HS: [Some of your paintings] derive their proportions from letter-boxed films. In some of them there are foregrounded elements obscuring more detailed action behind. There are linear sketches of figures that are looked through, suggesting overlays and dissolves. These seem like decisions based on cinema. How do Western films figure in what you’re up to?

BB: Yes, Western movies definitively influenced the work. I have a background in production design. A lot of how I think about the West I learned from movies. The genre in general has a lot photographic tendencies. I’ve got a background in production design. I worked on Richard Linklater’s Newton Boys film.

HS: Is there a Western movie that seems to you more about “moment” than “story”?

BB: The first one that comes to mind is Giant. I have done a lot of paintings from stills from that film.

HS: How about a list of Bryson Brooks’ favorite Western films?

BB: Unforgiven, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Shane, The Wild Bunch, and I would have to throw Blazing Saddles on the list, too.

HS: Have you driven through Hondo Valley, in southeastern New Mexico, land of Peter Hurd?

BB: Yes, many times over the years. I really love the epic scale of the landscape of New Mexico. The vastness of space in that part of the country is hard to wrap your head around. The area around Ghost Ranch is breathtaking, as well.

HS: In your painting Western Spring, is there a rabbit face painted into a tree trunk?

BB: Ha. Yes there is. It wasn’t a conscious choice though, he just appeared there. There is something very Brothers Grimm about that forest.

also by Hills Snyder - Glass Tire


Discography


LOS ARMSTRINGS - WUNDERLUST 1999

LOS ARMSTRINGS - LIVE

THE SHAKES - WE WERE NEVER HERE

FRANKY TRUTH AND THE OUTLET

  • KILLING FANS
  • SURE IS FUN TO DO IT
BRYSON BROOKS
FREAKY GIRL
BOOTY IN BERLIN - PRODUCED BY GORDON RAPHAEL 

BOOTY SUNRISE 

UPCOMING - 
SHOW ME - PRODUCED BY JIV POS 







Photos

Bio

In addition to painting, Bryson has excelled in performance art, appearing in numerous solo and group performance shows throughout the last 15 years, including performances with Snoop Dogg, Lil’ Flip, Mickey Avalon, and others. Awards and accolades include receiving the Art Pace Travel Grant for performance art in Berlin, where he recorded with Gordon Raphael, known for recording such acts as The Strokes.

 In addition, he has both organized and participated in various gallery shows and foundations in Mexico City throughout the past two decades. His work can be found represented in numerous private and public collections, galleries, museums, universities and public foundations, both nationally and internationally. He currently lives and works in San Antonio, TX.

In the late 90s, his band Los ArmStrings hit big in Serbia--#2 on the charts. He continued his musical projects when he returned to the States, including his San Antonio-based solo project Franky Truth and the Outlet. I just kind of hit a wall with it and stopped playing the punk rocky kind of thing,” says Brooks back in his loft last week. “I wanted to make something that was more controlled. So I just started making hip-hop music.” Over the next few years, Brooks worked sporadically with friend Mike Bailey, who produced the beats, compiling a backlog of dozens of hip-hop tracks. 


Brooks doesn’t view his rap enthusiasm as all that weird. Wearing a James Brown t-shirt, he explains that he moved to Augusta, Ga., in middle school, where freestyling and breakdancing were already standard playground activities. “It’s not so … hateful, sleazy, or angry,” he says, “I don’t really identify with it. I just kind of want to dance, be funny, point at how it’s all put together … I don’t want to say satirical. I think it’s honest. Honestly funny.”“I kind of grew up around Ice-T and the Beastie Boys and all that stuff in the ’80s,” he says. He rattles off a list of his favorite artists, Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Ice Cube, 50 Cent, and Snoop Dogg among others, as well as white rap enigmas Die Antwoord and Mickey Avalon.





Band Members