Pitch Black &Ghost White

Basking in the Cast of Jesse Draxler

Portrait by J Whitaker courtesy of Juxtapoz
Portrait by J Whitaker courtesy of Juxtapoz

Last Spring, The New York Times’ Sunday Review front-paged a rather alarming think piece about the addicting of Middle America entitled “Serving All Your Heroin Needs.” Written by the illicitly-driven Sam Quinones and shaken outta his wide-awake Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic (Bloomsbury Press), the 32-paragraph rat-a-tat-tat read like the kinda drive-by Elmore Leonard might’ve devised after being armed with a full-auto Upton Sinclair. In other words, a hard-boiled story-cored Indictment; not so much of the criminal class of Mexican wheelmen that it chronicled, mind you, but of a system which made criminals of a massive swath of the American middle class.

Of course no matter how tastefully told, the junkification of America is gonna be one stomach-turning tale; it’ll be hard to believe too, despite (and because of) its extraordinary scope. This meant that naive, sensitive types would likely reach for the Say It Ain’t So-flavored Pepto, then simply turn the front page. But what about the rest of the 2.4 million-plus Sunday readers? Would they have the guts to digest such a naked brunch?

Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, the Gray Lady wouldn’t be swayed. This story was too huge; the consequences too dire. And she had too much respect for everyone concerned — including herself. If folks didn’t get the prominence of the piece’s placement or the alluring of Quinones’ lead, they never would. More important was ensuring that those who did get it wouldn’t forget it.

Thus it came to pass that the overseers tasked with supplementing a killer story did the one more thing that’d make it truly lethal  — they went out and found themselves a killer artist.

Who did The Times find possessing a spark dark enough to illuminate the harrowing heralding of America’s Black Tar Plague?
Jesse Draxler, that’s who. One of the few new modern contemporaries capable of making scar out of understatement and an ace visualist of the first order. In fact, Draxler’s singularity is currently being so thoroughly sensationed, any question of Who? will soon be answered with Who Else?

Dig. The establishment cred Draxler earned from The Times was top shelf — and twofold. There was the Sunday edition itself (remember: circulation 2.4 million-plus), as well as that attendant front-paging (the very definition of prominent placement); then there was Draxler’s de facto aligning with Quinones. The former LA Timesman is at once a throwback reporter who keeps one step ahead of significant story (cred, delivered daily), and an author whose rightfully-revered rep is exceeded only by the fusillade of accolades which inevitably wake all of his longform work (cred, racked in perpetuity).

New York Times grab courtesy Jesse Draxler
New York Times grab courtesy Jesse Draxler

Countering the (presumably) unplanned alliance with Quinones are the (presumably) commissioned visualizings for keen, cool racket-makers such as The Black Queen, Chelsea Wolfe and Shifted, which surely helped compel an onslaught devoted to Draxler himself. Some of the plugs come from the portals of bona fide insider outlets such as Dazed & Confused (Dazed Digital) and Vice (The Creator’s Project); others via that innumerable slew of lesser known but no less knowing outlier sites and with-it merchandisers, including The Weird Show and OAK.

But of all the hurrahs heaped upon Draxler, none were as roarful as that which was bestowed by Juxtapoz. The occasion: Terror Management at Manhattan’s Booth Gallery, a soloing as striking as it was sublime. Juxtapoz apparently thought so too, because the insider’s absolute barometer of outsider artist cool featured Draxler’s action over a full 10 pages of its February issue. If even a single page in such an esteemed glossy has the juice to solidify the standing of a visualist (and it does), there’s no telling what 10 pages might do to and for a visualist’s long term vividity.

It’ll be damn fun finding out though; likely quite edifying as well. And this President’s Day Weekend anyone seeking to do so will have that chance. We mean of course Art Wynwood, where the 7 Artist Management star will be boothing with SWGR Gallery, and, in turn exhibiting among hundreds and hundreds of other contemporary and moderns. Whether the man who’s as close to Francis Bacon as Franz Kline ever wanted to get will stand out in such a high caliber crowd isn’t an issue. What’s at issue is just how bright a shine will be cast by Draxler’s pitch black and ghost white.

Jesse Draxler untitled 2015 Mixed media on wood panel 30″ x 40″ Courtesy of SWGR Gallery