Two Years, 1,242 Drawings: Immersive Blanton Exhibition Spotlights Draftsmanship of James Drake

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Aug. 12, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas — The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin presents an immersive exhibition of works by virtuosic draftsman James Drake. Anatomy of Drawing and Space (Brain Trash) represents the culmination of two consecutive years of active creation by the artist, a native Texan now based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Committing to draw every day for two years starting in 2012, Drake devised a disciplined yet flexible production system that resulted in an astonishing 1,242 individual drawings depicting wild animals, landscapes, studies of human anatomy, scientific formulas and representations of classical art and family photographs, among other subjects. Together, they comprise a monumental installation revealing his most enduring preoccupations and references — from communication and culture to violence and addiction. This exhibition, which was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and debuted there this summer, will be on view at the Blanton from Oct. 19 to Jan. 4.

For the Blanton’s installation, Drake’s unframed drawings will be pinned directly to gallery walls in expansive grids that stretch from floor to ceiling, providing an unconventional, surprisingly intimate look at the artist’s innermost thoughts, fears and observations in a studio-like atmosphere.

“Bringing this fresh and invigorating series by James Drake to the Blanton underscores the museum’s commitment to promoting lively conversations about contemporary art,” remarks Blanton Director Simone Wicha. “This exhibition provides a revealing view of the artist’s mind, the drawings like a visual diary of his thought process. Drake’s vision and skill will undoubtedly inspire students at The University of Texas and other visitors. We are pleased to partner with the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego to bring this unmatched body of work to Austin.”

In a departure from Drake’s better-known work in sculpture and video, Anatomy of Drawing and Space (Brain Trash) is one of the artist’s most notable accomplishments, giving form to a sustained artistic inquiry that is both existential and immediate. Using pencil, ink and charcoal, and often incorporating collage and stencil work, Drake’s renderings range from prosaic observations of landscapes and native creatures to meditations on cyclical themes such as order and chaos, life and death, innovation and legacy. As Drake worked in his studio, his skillful labor was improvised, with each sheet of paper recording the artist’s unrestrained musings as they arose in his mind. Some of these stream-of-consciousness drawings are simple and singular, while others compound into series, exposing 10 discrete chapters with distinct overriding concerns. Simultaneously contemporary and traditional, the drawings serve as an echo of Drake’s studio — the artist’s mind played out on epic scale.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 370-page publication including images of all 1,242 drawings. 

James Drake: Anatomy of Drawing and Space (Brain Trash) is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and is made possible by generous lead underwriting support from Tami and Michael Lang, and corporate underwriting from The San Diego County BMW Centers. Additional funding has been received from Stephen Feinberg. 

About the Blanton Museum of Art:
Founded in 1963, the Blanton Museum of Art is one of the foremost university art museums in the country and holds the largest public collection in Central Texas. Recognized for its modern and contemporary American and Latin American art, Italian Renaissance and Baroque paintings, and encyclopedic collection of prints and drawings, the Blanton offers thought provoking, visually arresting and personally moving encounters with art.

The museum is at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and North Congress Avenue. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m to 5 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Thursdays are free admission days, and on every third Thursday the museum is open until 9 p.m. Admission Prices: Adults $9, Kids 12 and under FREE, Seniors (65+) $7, Youth/College Students (13-21) $5. Admission is free to members and all current UT ID-holders. For additional information call 512-471-7324 or visit

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