James Drake

(b. 1946) James Drake is an international artist who was born in Lubbock, Texas, and raised in Guatemala, Mexico and El Paso. He received both his B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, California. He currently lives and works in Santa Fe, N.M.

Drake works in a variety of media, including drawing, sculpture, photography, video and installation. In all media, he consistently explores imagery relating to social issues, art history, weaponry and the fine line between savagery and civilization. His work is often allegorical and visceral, yet visually seductive. He is a master draftsman who typically works in black and white, a throwback to his days of watching old films as a kid in Lubbock.

Drake recognized an affinity for drawing at an early age and has spent his entire life honing his craft. He spends every day of the week making art and admits he doesn’t have any hobbies outside his work. He chooses to focus on figures in his art because they are a continuation of history and a plentiful source of subject matter. He is also fascinated by numbers and mark making. “Numbers measure everything—our years, time. They are incredibly important in human life. Without numbers you have no math; without math you have no civilization; without civilization we wouldn’t be sitting here.

Drake’s work may be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Dallas Museum of Art; the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC; the Brooklyn Museum of Art, N.Y.; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, N.Y.


Praetorian Guard by James Drake

Praetorian Guard

Year: 1985
Medium: Conte Crayon, Pencil, Charcoal and Watercolor on Paper
Location: Theatre Arts 2nd Floor

Gift of Rob Clark and Jerry Thacker

Praetorian Guard is reminiscent of a sketch or study an artist might make before moving on to a more detailed drawing or painting. In Drake’s case, this drawing is intended to stand alone as a finished product. The title refers to an elite unit of the Imperial Roman army who served as bodyguards and intelligence gatherers for Roman emperors and other high-ranking officials beginning in 275 BC. In later times, they grew in political influence and assisted with overthrowing and assassinating emperors. The guard was disbanded by Constantine the Great in 312.

The inverted gun at the top of the drawing and the disjointed body parts are allusions to the violence referenced in the title, yet the graceful, curving shapes create an overall visually captivating work of art. The columns upon which several figures are draped appear to be inspired by the Roman numeral II, perhaps a nod to Drake’s interest in numbers.