Disassembled 1976 John Deere 3300 combine harvester
with various components sandblasted, brass-plated, and
gold powder-coated; display vitrines, wood pedestals,
acrylic bonnets, and signage.
Commissioned by the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum,
Continuous Service Altered Daily is a site-engaged
sculptural array that uses the disassembly of a 1976 John
Deere combine harvester, a beacon of agricultural
technology, as a material and spatial analogy for how we
perceive the ecosystems that surround us. Every last
component of the combine was arranged and displayed,
without a single piece excluded, in an ambling procession
throughout The Aldrich’s grounds and galleries. Each
arrangement was poetically likened to an ecosystem service.
Brooks’s method of presentation offers the machine’s
shell and innards in varying degrees of material
transformation: a) in its weathered condition,
b) sandblasted to remove all evidence of wear and tear,
c) brass plated, and d) powder coated, elevating the
individualized status of the pieces as precious objects.
Within the Museum, each zone is represented by
an engraved metal placard describing the designated
ecosystem service, and every object on display has been
given an interpretive individual label that supports
this correlation. Thus, Brooks subverts the traditional
role of didactics by presenting the viewer with an
—Excerpt from exhibition publication essay by
curator Amy Smith-Stewart
Glass fish tanks, pumps, filters, aluminum stadium seating
15 x 10 x 6 feet
Winning proposal for Art Basel
Statements sector; Basel, Switzerland
Lonely Loricariidae is a sculptural installation that brings together five wild-caught fish from the Amazon Basin whose identities hang between two conflicting knowledge groups: the scientific study and taxonomy of Loricariidae, and the commodification of Loricariidae in the ornamental aquarium trade.
Of the 100,000 or more Loricariidae fish that are both legally and illegally exported each year from South America, there are dozens of new species unknown to science that enter the flow of this international aquarium trade. Once beyond the border of their country of origin, the fish become legal commodities within the market and are arbitrarily assigned an identifying “L”number since they lack a species name.
For Art Basel Statements, David Brooks has positioned these living creatures as spectators on a set of aluminum sports bleachers. Here these fish, who have yet to be studied and named by scientists, become active observers rather than simply the observed.
—Excerpted from Art Basel Statements press release
2011 – 2012
Asphalt shingled rooftops, wood,
vinyl siding, metal interpretive signs
16 x 92 x 54 feet
Commissioned by the Art Production Fund
for the Last Lot at Times Square, 46th and 8th Ave. NYC,
November 2011–February 2012
Desert Rooftops is a 5,000-square-foot sculpture that is
an undulating configuration of multiple asphalt-shingled
rooftops similar to those on suburban developments,
McMansions and strip malls conjoined to resemble a roll-
ing, dune-like landscape.
The piece examines issues of the natural and built lands-
cape by comparing the monoculture that arises from
unchecked suburban and urban sprawl with that of an
over-cultivated landscape—creating a work that is
“picturesque, familiar and simultaneously foreboding.”
Brooks’ sculptural approach gives a nod to Robert
Smithson’s earthworks and Gordon Matta-Clark’s build-
ing cuts while offering a much needed sense of humor to
help digest today’s somber environmental issues.
—Excerpted from the Art Production Fund press release
Machine in the Garden
Dynahoe tractor, concrete, earth, landscape, steel grating
66 x 28 x 12 feet
Storm King Art Center, NY
The notion of a ‘machine in the garden’ is a cultural symbol that underlies the tension between the pastoral ideal and the rapid and sweeping transformations wrought by industrialized technology. Brooks’s work considers this on- going conflicted relationship between the individual and the built and natural environment.
Speaking to Storm King’s past—as an agricultural site— and present—as a carefully sculpted pastoral environment— A Proverbial Machine in the Garden addresses questions of how humans use, consume, and perceive of the natural world.
Brooks’s piece is subterranean, and invisible from afar. It is designed to be experienced—as a natural landscape or topography would be—by viewers walking across it.
—Excerpted from the Storm King Art Center press release
Rock core extracted from 5285 feet,
metal scaffolding, modified architecture.
28 x 92 x 18 feet
Commissioned by the Visual Arts Center
at the University of Texas at Austin
Fossil fuel consumption produces numerous unexpected results, many of them troubling. When a petroleum company prospects for oil, an extraction of earth, called a core, is routinely done to determine the presence of hydrocarbons in that given area.
However costly and irreplaceable the cores might be, oil companies have no reason to keep them once the viability of a particular well or reservoir has been established. The University of Texas at Austin, however, has amassed a vast repository of these oil industry cast-offs over decades.
Before they were excavated, the stories buried within these stones lay dormant for 250 million years. Here this history is reactivated as the core transects the built environment of the gallery before plunging back to its subterranean origin.
—Excerpted from the installation’s wall text
within an Archive
within an Archive
Artist project for Issue no. 53 of Cabinet Magazine
Later reprinted as a take-away in news stands as part of the exhibition
at the Visual Arts Center, at the University of Texas at Austin
At the Austin Core Research Center (CRC) of the University of Texas there is a hangar-sized warehouse containing an archive of more than two million core samples. The stories buried within these stones laid dormant for 250 million years before excavation.
As samples were originally collected and shuttled from one lab to another in glass vials, there was a risk that the movement would agitate the sediments and break the vials. One obvious solution to the problem of excessive rattling was to simply stuff the day’s newspaper into each drawer.
By doing so, a third archive was incidentally amassed, offering accounts of the topical and quotidian goings-on of the day. Spanning news between the wars and after, this archive also laid dormant until a group of art students from the University of Texas at Austin accompanied me in February 2014 to reawaken these artifacts of a bygone era.
—Excerpted from the artist’s text in Cabinet Magazine
2010 – 2011
Nursery-grown trees, earth, concrete.
Installation at MoMA PS1, NYC
One of the more unusual sights [during installations for
MoMA P.S. 1’s Greater New York 2010 show] was a
cement mixer outside. It was not there to smooth out the
sidewalk or resurface P.S. 1’s courtyard, but to put the
finishing touches on “Forest Preserved,” by the 34-year
old artist David Brooks.
Mr. Brooks stood in P.S. 1’s 26-foot-high duplex gallery,
where concrete had just been dumped, pumped, and
sprayed over a forest of trees trucked in from nurseries in
Florida…The trees had been arranged to approximate
an Amazonian rain forest.
As the [cement] mixture was drying—and delicately
encrusting the trees—the leaves began wilting, cast in
a gray haze of heavy concrete…Mr. Brooks added that
the work “will change every day as it decomposes.”
—Excerpted from The New York Times, “A Petrified
Forest” by Carol Vogel, May 20, 2010
Still Life with
Stampede and Guano
Concrete animal forms that lived
with wild birds, wild seabird guano, varnish.
Commissioned by the Miami Art Museum,
There is an inherent irony to these concrete faux beasts, whose ferocious poses stand frozen, tamed and shackled as the ultra-domestic ornaments of their masters’ lawns.
Brooks placed these sculptures throughout the grounds of the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center to “live with” seabirds harmed as a result of contact with humans. Over time, the sculptures acquired a quasi-painterly patina of guano such that the simulated wild animals bear the indexical traces of real ones.
The urgent, overall implication of this piece is of human- kind’s artificial sense of separation from nature. This sense can blind us to nature’s actual presence around us, including the wildlife that struggles to survive amid our urban environments.
—Excerpted from the exhibition wall text
Myopic Wall Composition
(with chainsaw-cut wood
found at Walden Pond)
Chainsaw-cut wood found in historic
Walden Woods, MDF, paint, metal scaffold
Footprint dimensions variable; height 9’
Installation at deCordova Museum and
Sculpture Park, Lincoln, MA
October 2014 – April 2015
This piece contains chainsaw-cut and hand-hewn
wood collected from Walden Pond State Reservation
and historic Walden Woods. Thus, what appears to
be a “natural” object is in fact an object formed by culture.
Much like the “wilds” of Thoreau, the wilderness is
not a place void of culture, but intimately intertwined
with it, although not always visibly so.
These irregular wooden forms are reduced to two-
dimensional surfaces as they are embedded into museum-
style walls. Yet the “back” of the walls reveal the elaborate
scaffolding needed to support their precise locations,
alluding to a rich world made invisible.
The installation proposes a myopic or shortsighted
perception of the natural world. This is indicative of a
paradoxical sentimentality that simultaneously values
land conservation, often fueled by texts like Walden,
while jeopardizing the very same environment through
—Excerpted from the artist’s statement
(and their Producers)
Casts of steps from homes destroyed
in Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans.
84 x 144 x 72 inches
All that remains of hundreds of previously existing New Orleans wooden Creole cottages are the front steps leading up to the air-space where the house once was. The steps are steeped with formidable histories — the residual conglomeration of generations of events and hierarchies that shaped the environment as the environment has shaped the people.
This installation consists of various front steps that I documented in several of the evacuated neighborhoods of New Orleans. Each set of idiosyncratic steps becomes a readymade sculpture, or monument, that acts as a beacon for this convoluted social and natural history.
The steps’ pyramidal form evokes a “trophic pyramid,” a graphic form used to represent energy’s movement through an ecosystem. This project likens the hierarchy of an ecosystem’s flow, satirically, to the social history of New Orleans and its own dubious and unrelenting hierarchies.
—Excerpted from the artist’s project statement
2009 – 2015
(Three Still Lives with
Cherry Picker and Palms)
60’ aerial boom lift, Majesty palms, weather.
Installation at Fischer Landau Center, NYC, 2009
Socrates Sculpture Park, NYC, 2013
Nuit Blanche, Toronto, 2014
And an unbuilt commissioned proposal for the
Public Art Fund, NY
in which an armada of
cherry pickers with palms were to hover over
dormant construction sites throughout NYC.
In the Amazon, storms often result in the felling of
towering canopy trees, ripping holes in the forest
canopy and forming a “light gap.” This gap is quickly
colonized by opportunistic species that capitalize on
such improvisational events for rapid growth.
This sculptural intervention makes an analogy between
this phenomenon typical of rainforest ecology and
that of urban light gaps in our sprawling built environ-
ments—from dormant construction sites, rapid devel-
opment, or natural disasters. These aerial boom lifts, or
cherry pickers, behave as active and opportunistic
species in the built environment.
—Excerpted from the artist’s project description
Crates, Blocks, and Mammals
Installation at Art Los Angeles Contemporary
under the auspices of American Contemporary, NY
David Brooks’ precariously stacked compositions are determined by the amount of material needed to mimic the exact weight of the animals they depict—the most critically endangered mammals on Earth. These sculptures will outlive the species they reference, rendering them veritable monuments to the unknown, and the soon to be lost.
Like caged exotic animals on display—or readied for export—the sculptures are shown partially crated. The species name, average adult weight, and a graphic silhouette are stamped on the exterior of each crate.
The works rely on the crate as a support structure, as it provides a sense of balance and structural scaffold for the weighty materials it contains. This strain, between chaos and order, is ever present in Brooks’ work, which speaks to the energy exerted in the ongoing main-tenance of the
human relationship with the natural world.
—Excerpted from Crates, Blocks, and Mammals
press release, 2014
2009 – 2010
Concrete sidewalk, ficus benjamina,
metal gantry cranes, hoisting equipment.
144 x 744 x 108 inches (approx.)
Installation at Museum 52, NY
The production of cement is one of the primary producers of carbon dioxide, producing nearly one tenth of worldwide CO2 emissions per year. If one considers how harmful the production and application of concrete is to the larger body of our environment, one would need to be psychotic to live in approval of its use.
From a macroscopic perspective, it is nothing short of suicidal. And yet it is the very physical foundation of all extant urban infrastructures; it is the material of our dwelling, and sustains our way of life.
With some poetic license, one could see concrete as indicative of a larger existential impasse, highlighting the colossal scale of energy we exert to maintain such a delusional image of normalcy.
—Artist’s quote excerpted from Museum 52 press release
Notes on Structure
Imbroglios, heaps, and myopias
Installation at American Contemporary, NYC.
In Notes On Structure, Brooks creates a sculptural
representation of a phylogenetic tree — a branching
diagram that indicates evolutionary relationships between
biological entities, and their common ancestors. The
phylogenetic tree here traces the evolutionary paths of
humans and one of the world’s most sought after game
fish — the Atlantic Tarpon — a fish with enigmatic
migration routes, whose ancestors were some of the
earliest predatory fish, and is able to breathe oxygen
through an air bladder rather than gills.
The diagram is disrupted by the approximation of
a school of fish writhing through it, defying their
classification on the branching tree.
The notions of taxonomy and structure, by definition,
are only able to provide a single perspective of the state
of things. The wall constructions lining the back gallery
function as portraits of such a conflicted notion of
perception. The shortcomings in seeking the essence
of things becomes subject matter and medium as Brooks
capitalizes on these imbroglios to infuse process,
motion, and adaptability back into the static structures
that apparently define the world around us.
—Excerpted from the American Contemporary
2015 – 2016
A Day in the Life
of the Coral
(As Seen at Brewster Reef)
Imagery taken during three days at the
reef, wood billboard construction, hardware.
12 x 40 x 40 feet
On the occasion of Fringe Projects 2015,
Museum Park, Miami, FL
September 2015–January 2016
On the occasion of this public commission Brooks spent a consecutive number of days documenting portions of the barrier and patch reefs in close proximity to Museum Park in downtown Miami. Through the use of large layered billboards that post the daily goings-on of the reefs Brooks visited, he treats the billboard as a journalistic device.
Here the monumentally-scaled imagery depicts evidence
of coral’s now common bleaching phases due to deterioration in water quality and intensified warming—alongside their formal beauty and dwindling biodiversity from human impact.
The billboards might appear to the viewer as incomplete
or damaged, as large circular areas of the structure have been extracted. The deleterious impact the circular cutouts are analogous to the stresses society imposes upon other life within our environs.
—Excerpted from interpretive sign text
Daniel Maier-Reimer, walk
following the Florence
city boundary line, presented
by David Brooks
Aluminum, seamless nettle fabric, hardware,
framed photograph of the outskirts of Florence.
Clages, Cologne, Germany.
January 25 to March 8, 2013
Daniel Maier-Reimer roams unknown, mostly uninhabited territories in urban and rural areas along cartographically-fixed outlines of cities and landscapes. His photographs capture what was seen only as a representation of the subjective experience of space and time.
The photographs taken during a walk along the Florence city limits present a close-up view of a landscape: a place that could be everywhere and nowhere.
For his solo exhibition at Clages, Daniel Maier-Reimer invited American artist David Brooks to develop a vis-
ualization of this hike. The space within a space is man-
ifested as a walk-in structure; it is only once we are inside that we notice its contours follow the same path as those marked on the map. It is only inside of it that we can decipher the path taken.
—Excerpted from Vanessa Joan Müller, Kunsthalle Vienna
Pareidolia: When Flags Become Clouds
and Clouds Become Fish
Dye sublimation print on jet-flag fabric, grommets.
Dimensions variable (individual flags 72 x 120”)
Installation at Nouveau Musée National de Monaco
Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon by which an illusion involving a vague image is perceived as something clear and distinct (e.g. cloud forms in the shape of fish). The natural world has long been the incessant receiver of pareidolic vision—a backdrop for projecting our ever changing desires and fears. Despite the claims of science, according to our hardwired pareidolic tendencies "nature" can only be known as a reflection of our personal needs, consumptions and ideas.
—Excerpted from the artist’s project statement, 2011
(with American Lindens,
Black Honey Locusts,
Silver Maple, River Birch
Reclaimed lumber, hardware, existing trees
Installation at Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City, NY
Metal structural studs, gypsum board, flood lights,
electrical wiring, paint, modified architecture.
Installation at Museum 52, NYC.
Brooks’ project dramatically re-figures the sobering white
space into organic chaos. Dozens of sheetrock columns
virally sprout from the floor like forest sprawl. For Brooks,
quick millions are found in abrupt ecological change and
land development, in population growth, the bar-chart
ascent of office towers and the arterial thrusts of roads
through the Amazon. From global markets to microbes,
Brooks draws from a nebulous tangle where mergers
and acquisitions analogously shape the natural world.
Hastily constructed columns at varying degrees of
completion are partially demolished, torn open with
floodlights ablaze in the rubble. The bulbs simultaneously
destroy, adorn and illuminate, leaving the rubble
saturated with light, imprinting traces of the work on
the retinal memory…inciting ghosts of evolutionary
millennia razed in our clear-cut forests, and the ensuing
ruins of buildings built on speculation.
Quick Millions employs the dynamic of entropy, as
explored by artist Robert Smithson, from whose 1965
sculpture Brooks takes his title. But whereas Smithson
conceived of entropic form on a geological time-scale,
Brooks accelerates the notion and treats entropy on
a viscerally human time-scale, of years, months, days
—Excerpt from exhibition press release
Douglas fir, hardware, Silver birch trees.
Installation at Cass Sculpture Foundation,
West Sussex, UK
Picnic Grove is a work built out of custom-made
outdoor wooden furniture and spread over the entire
18,000m of the Deer Hut Field at Cass Sculpture
The 34 picnic tables and garden chairs are construct-
ed in an interlocking manner, with trees heedlessly
growing through the furniture like opportunistic
weeds. As the picnic tables traverse the field and
impose themselves on the landscape, the trees
perforate the structures like a verdant grove, creating
ambiguity as to which is dominant.
While visitors are encouraged to utilize the install-
ation for communal enjoyment, they will also find
themselves negotiating the playful interruptions
created by the erratic placement of the trees, fostering
a similar sense of ambiguity as to who is imposing on
—Excerpted from the Cass Sculpture Foundation
Sketch of a Blue Whale
(Enlarged to Scale:
23 meters, 154 tons)
Polished stainless steel tubing,
used galvanized steel scaffolding, hardware
18,104 x 18,108 x 3000 mm
Installation at Cass Sculpture Foundation,
West Sussex, UK
In the earth’s 3 billion year history of cellular life, the blue whale is the largest animal ever known to have roamed its surface, and it coexists with us still to this day.The whale is a scale of life that competes with the scale of our own infrastructures.
Considering our ability to lord dominion over all life, the blue whale, in its dwarfing scale, places our individual relationship to the natural environment back into a perspective of humbled celebration.
In this piece, the confluence of different scales simul-
taneously (between the hand drawn, the sculptural, and the monumental size of a real blue whale, as well as the surrounding landscape) points to an immediate relationship between the viewers themselves and the reality of the natural world just beyond our front doors.
—Excerpted from the Cass Sculpture Foundation
Terra Incognita—Rainforest Canopy
Partially Buried Boardwalk
(with Observation Tower)
Cargo containers, tropical canopy trees, irrigation system.
Reclaimed lumber, gravel, hardware.
Installation at Sculpture Center
2007 – Present
Other Selected Works
Biodiversity Survey of the Western
Guiana Shield: Part III of a Three-Part
Survey of South American Highlands:
Aquatic Biodiversity Survey of
the Southern Ecuadorian Amazon: Ecuador, 2012
Tropical Audubon Society, Annual Census Counts
and The North American Migration Count,
Florida Everglades and Florida Keys:
1999 – Present
Aquatic Biodiversity Survey of the
Southern Peruvian Amazon: Peru, 2010
Planetary Biodiversity Inventory:
All Catfish Species Inventory:
Amazon Basin Expedition, 2005
Bonefish and Tarpon Conservation Research Program,
University of Miami Rosenstiel
School of Marine and Atmospheric Science:
Miami, FL, 2005 – 2014
Paso Portachuelo Annual Bird Migration
Banding Project, under the auspices of the
University of Venezuela Maracay: Henri Pittier
National Park, Venezuela, 1997
For the last 19 years I have spent a great deal of time
doing fieldwork with ichthyologists, ornithologists
and conservation biologists in South Florida (Florida
Keys and Everglades) and South America (Amazon
Basin, Guyana Shield, and Andean river drainages).
I see conservation biologists as some of the most
avant-garde thinkers working in any field today,
and especially generative for reshaping platforms
of artistic dialogue.
Conservation biology—the science of maintaining
biological diversity—is an interdisciplinary science
which uses a hybrid method of analysis incorporating
history, infrastructure, aesthetics, tactile facts, and
social responsibilities as common grounds within
the landscape. Much like conservation biology, my
project-based work investigates how cultural concerns
cannot be divorced from the natural world, while
also questioning the terms under which nature is
perceived and utilized. Conservation biology’s myriad
subjects it must navigate mirrors my own methods of
weaving formal devices, material conventions, and
site limitations with the urgency of issues that emanate
from the impacts of a global capitalist system.
In 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012, and 2016, I worked
with a team of biologists to complete biotic surveys
in the Amazon regions of the Brazo Casiquiare
in Venezuela, the Acre in Brazil, the Cordillera del
Condor in Ecuador, the Madre de Dios in Peru,
and the Amazonian sister system of the Upper Ireng
in Guyana. All four of these expeditions were ex-
tremely productive in the acquisition of new species.
On just these few expeditions we collected over 40
undescribed species of fish (species not yet known
to science), expanded the known range of a number
of bird species, and yielded a yet unknown number
However, the human impacts on these seemingly
remote areas of the Amazon were overwhelming, ex-
asperating and humbling. They galvanized a world-
view stubbornly caught within a distraught network
of global economics, cultural wants and social ills,
as well as an immanent ecological apocalypse that are
all being brought to an accelerated confrontation
and an accelerated entropy. From the position of a
cultural producer, it is imperative that this accelerated
entropy be documented, articulated and challenged
within the cultural sphere, as its roots are ultimately
ideological in origin.