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City of Tells (Joy, Folly, Torment)

2005
21st century
274.3 cm x 457.2 cm (108 in. x 180 in.)

James Drake (Lubbock, Texas, 1946 – ) Primary

Object Type: drawing
Artist Nationality: North America, American
Medium and Support: Charcoal on paper mounted on canvas
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Jeanne and Michael Klein, 2009
Accession Number: 2009.4

In epic scale and with virtuosic draftsmanship, Drake depicts a lavish banquet attended by feral hogs that lay waste to the feast and destroy the table setting. Allegories of human interaction and behavior are a recurring subject in Drake’s work and here, hogs stand in for the dinner guests. Joy, Folly, Torment is part of a series of works that includes other large scaled charcoal drawings and a video, titled City of Tells. The “tells” in the title refers to the unconscious cues that give away one’s hand (or the conscious cues meant to deceive one’s opponents) in poker. With its references to opulent still life paintings dating from the Renaissance, Drake joins a tradition of pointed social critique and suggests that celebration can sometimes lead to ruin.

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