One Man’s Trash

James Drake’s exhibition, The Anatomy of Drawing and Space (Brain Trash), consists of 1,242 drawings that took the artist years to complete. Here he discusses the inspiration, the process, and the meaning of this large-scale installation currently on view at MCASD Downtown.

MCASD: While you have always drawn, you are equally known for your sculpture and photography. How does this project compare to your other work?

JD: Each project and concept dictates its own direction and media. Everything I do has a basis in drawing then proceeds from that point. Also, the different concepts and works seem to have a more clear resolution when approached with an open mind.

MCASD: What made you dedicate such continuous time to drawing? Did you anticipate the result as this multiple-room installation?

JD: At first my main intention was to make 1,000 drawings. As the work progressed I realized it would also have to be based on the configuration and walls of the spaces in the Museum…As part of the concept for this piece I felt it was important to maintain a rigorous schedule and allow the drawings to basically lead me down any path while spontaneously exploring as many possibilities as feasible. To accomplish this task it was absolutely essential to immerse myself in this idea but set a few basic parameters:

First, and most importantly, all of the drawings should be based on (more or less) a free form stream of consciousness and made in sequence. Also, and this is equally important, I would not edit the drawings. When one was completed I would pin it to the wall and proceed to the next. No going back or changing – what’s there is there. Second, all of the drawings would be the same size: 19’X24.” Third, they would all be made using a drawing media such as charcoal, graphite, ink, pencil, some watercolor, etc.

MCASD: The subtitle of the show is Brain Trash. Is this exhibition meant to show viewers what the inside of your brain looks like? How autobiographical is the work?

JD: This exhibition is not meant to show the inside of my brain, even though some people have stated that it is like “seeing” into an artist’s brain. Some of the work is indeed autobiographical and references friends, family, and other pieces I have worked on.

MCASD: The exhibition is comprised of ten “chapters,” with each chapter filling a wall in the gallery. Does the exhibition tell a linear story or does each chapter speak to something different? Is there a particular order in which they should be viewed? How do you decide when a chapter is complete?

JD: The exhibition definitely does not tell a linear story, or any story for that matter. It is a free form stream of consciousness with certain ideas and concepts coming to the forefront. Each individual chapter evolved into its own character and identity. The chapters are all organized consecutively but of course, viewers may view them as they wish. Each chapter has a specific number of drawings that fit onto each of the walls. For example, Chapter Nine is composed of 175 drawings and is pinned to a wall that is 52 feet long.

MCASD: What do you hope visitors will take away from this show? Is there anything in particular you are trying to accomplish?

JD: I hope visitors will reevaluate, reconsider, and approach drawing from a different perspective. Drawing is one of the first and oldest forms of expression. All artists approach drawing in a unique way and I try to be aware of the historical significance while obsessively focusing on contemporary issues, problems, and sometimes solutions.