James Drake's 1982 installation Trophy Room, crafted from cut and welded steel, is a raw tour de force. Its steel-walled 12-by-16-foot room is furnished with a throne-like chair, weaponry and animal heads, all in blackened steel. Simmering with barely controlled violence, it feels like the lair of a gun-nut Texas rancher or a drug cartel kingpin.
Drake, who was born in Lubbock and grew up in Guatemala, Mexico and El Paso, Texas, could have been channeling either. The artist is widely known for his large-scale drawings, but they pale in comparison to works like Trophy Room or his two-channel video Tongue-Cut Sparrows (2007), also on view. The video focuses on the sign language created by El Paso inmates and their loved ones - women are shown signing on the sidewalk below; men are seen silhouetted in the windows above. Drake asked them to incorporate into their communications quotes referencing loss and distance from the likes of William Shakespeare, Jorge Luis Borges and Cormac McCarthy. It's an incisive and powerful work.
(Through January 9. The Station Museum of Contemporary Art, 1502 Alabama St., 713-529-6900.)
In the video below, Drake discusses Tongue-Cut Sparrows.
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