Khaleb Brooks is an interdisciplinary artist based in the UK. Meshing the black queer figure with surreal environments in paintings, using printmaking to question the politics of desire and entering transcendental states in performance they force their audience to confront the literal and social death of black people globally.
Currently as an artist in residence at the International Slavery Museum he is working with the museums collection to create work about the legacy of the Atlantic Slave Trade and queer narratives using painting, performance and video. Last year, he was in residence at the Tate Modern delivering youth workshops in conjunction with the Tate Learning Department.
Performing in the 2019 Venice Biennale and consistently pushing the boundaries of art as a tool to politically engage. He has exhibited and performed at the Institute of Contemporary Art (2021 and 2018), Schwules Museum in Berlin (2019), Gazelli Art House in London (2021, 2020, 2019), GlogauAir in Berlin (2019), 198 Contemporary in London (2017) and We- Dey Gallery in Vienna (2018). The works shown in these exhibitions blur the lines between history and futures in an attempt to explore the possibilities inherent in liminal spaces (ie. in between worlds, dislocation, non- citizen, without rights, non- being).
In Khaleb’s latest large scale acrylic paintings, he melds together memories of emancipation, disrupted identities and re-imagines futures through surrealism. In “Tryna Make a Way Out of No Way” a mermaid is holding a horn instrument. Based on a real object, the horn belonged to the African- American Private, Prince Simbo who fought for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. This imagery means to encompass sexuality and independence (siren), the continued effort of emancipation (horn) and the connections between the past and present emphasizing the blurring of time in collective memory. In other works such as “100% Cotton” he continues this theme with replicating “The Brooks Slave Ship”, an archival image representing how people were transported during slavery.
His latest performance film, “Black Boys Can Swim” ( https://vimeo.com/537181987 ) explores the cultural, economic and social relationship communities have with the water. Shot in Lamu, Kenya, he captures men working on dhows (traditional sail boats), children playing in water, his own experiences with almost drowning, and creates characters of the sea, combining mythmaking with lived experience. By embodying the spirit of the water as both powerful and playful and engaging with the history that’s kept the African diaspora from accessing pools, he begs his audience to rethink the racist stereotype “Black people Can’t Swim”.
Prior to working as an artist full time, Khaleb was an International Development practitioner where they worked with the United Nations and a multitude of NGO’s throughout Africa, Latin America and Asia. Khaleb, originally from Chicago is inspired by the perseverance of black families in overcoming poverty, addiction, abuse and gang violence as well as their own experiences of being transgender. Khaleb graduated from SOAS with an MSc in Violence Conflict and Development in 2015.