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Arthur Drooker: Heavy Metal

Patina Gallery 131 West Palace Avenue, Santa Fe


content is, however, a little more gritty than

Heavy Metal, also the title of

world supply, no doubt, melted down

spacious without being crowded, which

the gorgeous gardens of Giverny. Stacks of

Drooker’s most recent book, holds

and recast or refabricated at least once

can sometimes be a challenge for a gallery

crushed automobiles, exhaust manifolds,

meaningful content in terms of issues

or multiple times since last being used

in the center of a tourist town. It was

massive cogs, and much metal detritus fills


to depict a Titus or Trajan type riding his

in the well-appointed, picture-perfect

the entirety of the visual field in most of



best pony. The yearly addition of raw ore

Patina that I discovered that certain

the pictures. In one case the rusting body

having a ubiquitously abstract look due

to world metal caches is minimal. Most

state-of-the-art lighting systems will in

of an old pickup from the forties—one

to Drooker’s aforementioned pushing

of the metals that humans work has

fact cause me to uncontrollably salivate.

with all the super-nice curves—appears

of horizonless imagery to the edges, and

been handled for centuries, so facilities

Recently under the spotlights, among

with the single word SAVE chalked on

carrying this forward through eschewing

like Schnitzer Steel have existed on

many other fascinating art, jewelry,

it, set against a massive towering sea of

traditional photo framing. The prints,

smaller scales for thousands of years, but

and sculptural objects, were photo-

autos crushed forever, damned to having

presented under glass, sans mats, in

ratcheting up to industrial scale creates

based images from the latest series by

their forms lost for all eternity. Who was

simple, thick, white frames, have an

all sorts of sea changes.

American photographer Arthur Drooker

the scrap-yard Yahweh that reached

elegant, almost sculptural presence that

Drooker’s lens tends to be that

documenting the repurposing of scrap

out and fingered this particular piece of

encourages abstract readings as the

of a documentarian, as self-proclaimed

metal at Schnitzer Steel’s mammoth

curvilicious steel for reuse rather than

hyper-realist imagery morphs into pure

“urban explorer.” The sheer scale of his

recycling facility in Oakland, California.

recycling? We may never know. Beautifully

visual texture and back again.

subject here, the mountainous refuse

planet-wide and




Drooker employs a horizonless

toned and full of rich, sharp detail, this is

The endlessly transforming life of

and reuse of resource, stands as a

format pioneered in European painting by

not exactly Michelangelo’s Last Judgment

metals is clearly evoked. Where is the

symbol for the ponderously threatening

Monet’s Waterlilies, in which the visual field

or Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa, but an

copper and tin today that once made up

weight of everything that the world’s

is filled top to bottom and side to side with

amusing, seemingly serendipitous play

hundreds of Roman imperial equestrian

most materialistic imperialist society has

the depicted subject matter. Drooker’s

on both.

bronzes, for example? Somewhere in the

evolved—the weight of everything that is too big to fail, jail, or flail. The weight of endless and bigger bank warfare is evoked as metals have a primary role in weaponry, historically and today. The Deleuzian concept of the artist creating the war machine is especially instructive in this regard. The price of military steel is not just measured in billions of dollars, clearly, but the photographic presence of such quantities implies their economic worth and the longstanding connection of metals to wealth. And the longstanding connections of wealth to social oppression and abusive hierarchies through metallic might. In Drooker’s hands, the engine that is Schnitzer Steel is used to process as many rich metaphors as it does disposable, fossilfueled vehicles. Like walls of sound thrown up by a bank of electric guitars in the musical genre his exhibition title alludes to, these images also become pure and impenetrable boundaries of sight and vision. Please try not to lick the lights. —Jon Carver

Arthur Drooker, Save, digital pigment print, 20” x 30”, 2014

d e c e MBER / j a n u a r y


THE magazine | 55

The magazine Dec 2015 – Jan 2016