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Alex and Lee (American , b.20th Century)


Also known as:  Alex & Lee; Lee Brooks; Alex Mate

Lee Brooks, of Alex&Lee, is an artist whose creative life story follows the archetypal arc of a tribal shaman. Capable of channeling mysterious power thru found objects into objects of rare beauty, refinement and significance Brooks is a counter-culture artist who came of age during the artistic and cultural freedoms of the 1960’s. Under the brand Alex & Lee, along with the late Alex Maté and now with his current life-partner Greg Franke, Lee Brooks has crafted a successful career creating talismanic high-fashion jewelry that has attracted collectors, designers, hippies, artists and connoisseurs at the very highest echelon of designer + art fashion. As a teenager, Brooks was involved in a near-fatal car accident that resulted in the loss of a dearly loved and deeply poetic friend. The experience left Brooks in the hospital and in the dream-like state of a coma. Awoken during an alcohol bath by a beautiful nurse with a lovely “Oh, hello there!” - Brooks was symbolically “reborn.” Shortly after, once he had fully recovered from the accident, he left his small California hometown for San Francisco to start a new life as an artist. He arrived during the Beat Era, and just as the city was being transformed by the blossoming counter-culture movement centered in the Haight-Ashbury. While walking in NYC’s Central Park in 1970, Brooks spotted the luminously beautiful Spainish-Brazilian Alex Maté. The two fell in love at first sight and from that day on they embarked together on a life-long creative partnership. Not long after meeting, while walking on the beach wearing their own hand-made driftwood jewelry, they were discovered by the fashion world. Gwen Mazer, the accessories editor of Harper’s Bazaar Magazine, spotted the elegant couple walking hand-in-hand by the ocean and introduced herself. She demanded to know what they were wearing. Within a short time their hand-crafted jewelry was gracing the runways of Europe and available in the most exclusive boutiques and shops in the United States. The Alex & Lee aesthetic developed into a line of bespoke necklaces made from found natural and cultural objects as disparate as scarab, glass eyeballs, primitive nomadic metal-work, feathers, stone, minerals, collage, bone and sparkling paste which are deftly woven together using hand-dyed and hand-woven silk cord – in a process called ‘passamenterie.’ Brooks has described the Alex&Lee object as “dream-like multi-media assemblages for a distant past and a distant future…the ‘ancient future!’ By the 1970s, Alex &Lee’s work was a part of the newly emerging ‘Art to Wear’ movement, championed by pioneers such as San Francisco’s Obiko Boutiques Sandra Sakata. When avante-grade clothing designer Kaisik Wong hand-delivered an Alex & Lee necklace to the surrealist artist Salvador Dali, Dali’s reaction was to immediately invite the jewelry designers to work with him in Europe. Nearly overnight Alex& Lee were sharing the fashion runway with Dali in Spain. Dali wore his own Alex&Lee piece regularly and with great relish, and for the rest of his life. Maté passed away in the early 1990s, and Brook’s creative fire wasn’t rekindled until he met his new life partner Greg Franke a few years later. Yet another miracle, as the new pair discovered that they too were a also a perfect creative fit. Together Brooks and Franke continue to create jewelry together under the Alex &Lee brand. Widely collected, their stunning new works have graced the fashion runways of such contemporary designers as the acclaimed fashion duo Proenza Schouler. Their work has been owned and worn by creative visionaries and fine-art collectors such as Sir Elton John, Cher, Dodie Rosecrans, Ann Getty, Joan Baez and the late (and forever stylish) actor and acclaimed art collector Vincent Price.
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