The red chandelier has been on my mind since I first saw it last fall. I saw it at the Moody Gallery, and then again in their booth at the Texas Contemporary Art Fair. It is the work of internationally recognized artist, James Drake. He has worked in various materials from metal to film to paper and his subjects have been equally varied. There are books about him, he has received many awards, and he is widely collected. (For more detailed accolades check out this summary from the University of Texas Press: James Drake.)
But for me, this work is simply beautiful. The seemingly random ripping of paper puzzled together with tape, that holds the magnificent drawing of a grand chandelier – in a riot of red – is something raw and vibrant and elegant all at the same time. It is why I can’t stop thinking about it.
Most of his work, really, is hard to forget. It is obvious in the rendering of “Big Baby” (below) that Mr. Drake is a masterful drawer. This clear reference to life and humanity is stirring and dramatic, enhanced by it’s large scale.
Mr. Drake’s work can also be allegorical, as seen in the incredible image of the “Reclining Female.” It seems the image points to the style of the 19th century French Romantic painter, Théodore Géricault. Romanticism was characterized by emotionalism and the appeal of the exotic, which Mr. Drake’s talent can also capture. Mr. Drake’s modern red-pastel nude (on paper with the tape and a graphite drawing of an intricate mirror) is breathtaking. It could probably hold it’s own beside Géricault’s “Raft of the Medusa” in the Louvre!
Within this same body of red-pastel work (some pieces can still be seen at the Moody Gallery in Houston – 2815 Colquitt Street) are works in white and graphite. These amazingly intricate works of hand-cut paper allow the viewer’s eye to work to create the image. The eye darts between the light and shadow. They are visually seductive pieces in this quiet play; the image within the paper like lace. This delicate contrast to the opposing subject of insects, motorcycle engine, and mirror, is fantastic.
Mr. Drake’s work has been widely praised and widely collected by museums and individuals alike. It is easy to see his extreme talent and versatility in these images alone.