Wednesday, October 20, 2010

James Drake at the Station Museum

Without knowing much about James Drake, I have to conclude based purely on his art that he is kind of a bad-ass. He has a bravura drawing technique, but is more than willing to drop that and do assemblage. His show at The Station Museum is full of macho imagery--not that it feels like he's saying "Check out me and my big swinging dick," but he does deal a lot with violence and with "things men like." Think of the famous Stuart Davis mural, "Men Without Woman," amp that up to 10 but also give it some anger and some mournfulness, and you start to get to James Drake.

I mean, what could be more bad-ass than this?

James Drake, Artificial Life in the Valley of the World, automobile engine, python snakeskin, 1994

A big V8 covered in tight snakeskin wrapping. Hanging from a chain. If Sailor from Wild at Heart wanted to decorate his crib, this is the kind of art he'd get. What gets me is that this is assemblage. Sure, it took serious skill to cut and sew that python skin into that complex shape, but artistically, this is all about the idea: "Wouldn't it be bitchin' to wrap a car engine in snakeskin." For an artist with prodigious drawing skills, though, this is brave. It is showing a willingness to leave his talent behind and let the idea be the thing.