New Mexico Museum of Art

James Drake: Salon of a Thousand Souls

September 12, 2011


One-person exhibition at the New Mexico Museum of Art

Throughout his career, James Drake has examined the theme of humanity in all of its triumphs, failures, and follies—including war; love and desire; greed, gluttony, and vanity; and the realities of life along the U.S.-Mexico border. The New Mexico Museum of Art exhibition James Drake: Salon of a Thousand Souls includes 19 sculptures and works on paper by the Santa Fe-based artist spanning nearly 25 years. The exhibition opens with a free reception on Friday, October 28, 2011. It remains on view through April 22, 2012.

The contrast of baroque embellishment and hard-edge geometry characterizes Drake’s work as a whole in the exhibition, whose title suggests a meeting place where ideas and images are gathered for discussion. Salon of a Thousand Souls highlights the recurrent use of guns, mirrors, and vehicles of industry to explore modernity’s impact on human civilization. It also includes examples of Drake’s use of appropriation and allegory as strategies to underscore the cyclical nature of history. Among the works to be shown are a never-before-exhibited 21-foot red pastel drawing and a wall drawing executed by the artist in the museum specifically for this exhibition.

James Drake has dedicated much of his creative life to a critique of social, political and economic issues faced by American society. In doing so, he has positioned art as a catalyst for social change. This is true for much of the most powerful art through the ages: Goya’s condemnation of war in the 1810s, Daumier’s lambast of political folly in the mid-1800s, Picasso’s lamentation of the destruction of the Spanish Civil War in 1937.

“Drake’s work has a sense of gravitas in terms of subject matter; it could be described as epic in its scope,” says exhibition curator Laura Addison. “Salon of a Thousand Souls analyzes how art can be a vehicle to address inequities that remain, unfortunately, timeless. Through his masterful handling of steel, charcoal, pastel, and collage, he brings beauty to rawness and gives voice to the marginalized.”

Drake’s earliest works in the exhibition are of steel and charcoal, and were a response to the tensions along the U.S.-Mexico border, which have only intensified in recent years. Living in El Paso at the time, Drake interpreted the border issues as just one chapter of the larger human story. He continues to view the world through this same lens, universalizing war, industry, and progress as narratives of the human condition that repeat endlessly.

Since moving to Santa Fe, Drake’s work has been primarily large-scale charcoal drawings, as well as cut-paper works and red-pastel drawings. The source material for his imagery is not only particular news reports, but also mythology and the personal struggles and stories of family, friends and strangers. Salon of a Thousand Souls brings together all of these narratives and draws a picture of James Drake as a humanist telling cautionary tales.


During his 35-year career, James Drake has worked with equal fluency in video, photography, sculpture, drawing, and printmaking. He has had over 60 one-person shows and has been included in numerous group exhibitions, including the 2000 Whitney Biennial and the 2007 Venice Biennale. Drake is the recipient of a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and a Nancy Graves Award for Visual Arts. His most recent accolade is a Texas Medal of Arts (2011). His work is in more than 30 museum collections, including the Albright-Knox Gallery, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Blanton Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art, Denver Art Museum, Phoenix Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the New Mexico Museum of Art. Born in Lubbock, Texas, in 1946, Drake lived for many years in El Paso, Texas, and presently lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Media Contacts

Laura Addison, Curator Contemporary Art



Steve Cantrell, PR Manager


505-310-3539 – cell



 The New Mexico Museum of Art was founded in 1917 as the Art Gallery of the Museum of New Mexico. Housed in a spectacular Pueblo Revival building designed by I. H. and William M. Rapp, it was based on their New Mexico building at the Panama-California Exposition (1915). The museum's architecture inaugurated what has come to be known as "Santa Fe Style." For nearly 100 years, the Museum has celebrated the diversity of the visual arts and the legacy of New Mexico as a cultural crossroads by collecting and exhibiting work by leading artists from New Mexico and elsewhere. This tradition continues today with a wide array of exhibitions with work from the world’s leading artists. The New Mexico Museum of Art brings the art of New Mexico to the world and the art of the world to New Mexico.



The New Mexico Museum of Art is a division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.


Information for the Public 


Location: Santa Fe’s Plaza at 107 West Palace Avenue.

Information:  505-476-5072 or visit

Days/Times: Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.  Open Free on Fridays, 5:00-8:00 p.m.

Admission: Adult single-museum admission is $6 for New Mexico residents, $9 for nonresidents; OR $15 for one-day pass to two museums of your choice (Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Museum of International Folk Art, New Mexico Museum of Art, and Palace of the Governors/New Mexico History Museum) OR $20 four-day pass to the four museums listed above. Youth 16 and under, Foundation Members, and New Mexico Veterans with 50% or more disability always free

Sundays: New Mexico residents with ID are admitted FREE, Students with ID receive a $1 discount.
Wednesdays: New Mexico resident seniors (60+) with ID are free.

Field Trips There is no charge for educational groups attending the museum with their instructor and/or adult chaperones. Contact the Tours office by phone at (505) 476-1140 or (505) 476-1211 to arrange class/group visits to the Museum.

Back to Press Release List »