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Exhibition Spotlight—James Drake in Drawing: The Beginning of Everything

August 21, 2017

James Drake (American, born 1946). A Thousand Tongues Burn and Sing (Twirling Hands), 1996. Charcoal on paper, 114 x 80 inches (289.6 x 203.2 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Charles Clifton and George Cary Funds, 2011 (2011:45). © 1996 James Drake

The Albright-Knox’s latest special exhibition, Drawing: The Beginning of Everything, celebrates contemporary artists’ diverse approaches to the medium. Here on the blog, we’re taking a closer look at several artists featured in the exhibition.

James Drake’s imagery in A Thousand Tongues Burn and Sing (Twirling Hands) was inspired by the interactions between convicts in the El Paso County Detention Facility and their loved ones as well as the eighteenth-century Christian hymn “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” which is about forgiveness, redemption, and the power of faith to set prisoners free. While living and working in El Paso, Texas, Drake encountered a community of women who would regularly gather outside the prison walls and attempt, through mock sign language, to convey messages to friends and family members inside. In the artist’s haunting interpretation, a spiral of hands converges to form a black hole of yearning and desire.