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Third World Street Girls II
148.6 cm x 108.6 cm (58 1/2 in. x 42 3/4 in.)
(Lubbock, Texas, 1946 – )
North America, American
Medium and Support:
Lithograph on two panels in artist-fabricated steel frame
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Fredericka Hunter and Ian Glennie, 2011
James Drake lived for many years in El Paso, Texas, the largest border town in the United States. There, he bore daily witness to the dramatic cultural and economic differences between El Paso and Juárez, Mexico, which lies just across the Rio Grande River. In this print, Drake humanizes the statistics of violence related to the drug trade, gun trafficking, illegal immigration, and prostitution along the border.
The artist refers to El Paso as “the zone of desire,” alluding to how the town functions as a site of economic aspiration for many living on the border; the term also evokes the city’s darker substratum of exploitation. Drake’s work brings to light the plight of immigrants who enter the U.S. in search of work and experience danger and degradation in the process. The palette chosen for the print simulates the lurid neon glow of Juárez bars. Drake incorporated newspaper photographs that illustrate the nocturnal cross-border economy of prostitution, in which sex workers, often transvestites and transsexuals, doubly risk their personal safety: first by crossing the border and then by soliciting strangers on the other side. He counters the marginalized status of his subjects by representing them at heroic scale. Drake constructed a steel frame to house the print, giving the image the weight and presence of sculpture.