James Drake | Artists’ Chronicles: 2020

James Drake is an internationally acclaimed artist whose work has been honored with inclusion in both the Venice Biennale and the Whitney Biennial. In his artistic career spanning over 40 years, James Drake has explored political, social, and universal themes through the media of sculpture, video, installation, photography, and drawing.

Kathryn Kanjo, chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego writes, “He defies a ready, singular style. Instead, Drake maps a space of humanity toggling between the languages of physics and poetry, illustrated by images of current events and cultural history.”

James Drake is a versatile artist and superb draftsman, an expert sculptor specializing in welded-steel installations, and a penetrating photographer and video artist. In all of those media, James Drake has deployed a consistent vocabulary of images relating to art history, weaponry, the fine line between savagery and civilization, and life in the densely populated bilingual Juarez-El Paso border. James Drake’s work is allegorical, visceral, exquisitely crafted, and visually seductive. 

Drake was born in Lubbock, Texas in 1946 and currently lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He received his B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, California. In 2000 his work was included in the Whitney Biennial, and in 2007 his work was featured at the 52nd International Venice Biennale. His work is found in the permanent collections of many leading institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Dallas Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Blanton Museum of Art, San Antonio Museum of Art, Art Museum of South Texas, El Paso Museum of Art, New Mexico Museum of Art. He has published three books: James Drake (University of Texas Press, 2008); James Drake: Red Drawings & White Cut-Outs (Radius Books, 2012); and James Drake: 1242 (Radius Books, 2015). Drake is the recipient of numerous awards, including three National Endowment for the Arts Grants (1988, 1989 x2), a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2001), and a Nancy Graves Award for Visual Arts (2001).