White Columns is proud to present a rare solo exhibition by the Buffalo, NY-based artist Jack Drummer (1935 - 2013) - aka John E. Drummer. This is the first New York exhibition of Drummer’s work in many decades, and follows the pioneering survey of his work at Buffalo’s Burchfield Penney Art Center in 2016. White Columns’ exhibition focuses on Drummer’s late work, made during the last twenty-odd years of his life following his return to his native Buffalo in the early 1980s, after an extended period of living and working in Hawaii.
Drummer was an itinerant and mercurial figure. Self-taught as an artist, his earliest works from the late 1950s and early 1960s were included in several key exhibitions in Buffalo and New York City, including the first of Allan Kaprow’s legendary ‘New Forms, New Media’ exhibitions that he curated for Martha Jackson’s gallery in 1960. Drummer’s 1962 solo exhibition at the Gordon Gallery, New York received a rapturous review from critic Brian O’Doherty in The New York Times, who praised Drummer for his ability to “make something out of nothing”, describing his work from this time as “screens for the imagination,” a notion that could equally be applied to his later works currently on view at White Columns. Despite this early success, Drummer would soon leave New York City, returning initially to Buffalo, before moving to New Orleans and then California, before eventually settling in Hawaii. Very little of Drummer’s early work has survived, including almost none of the 300-odd, often large-scale, styrofoam-based sculptures he produced in Hawaii.
On returning to his home-town of Buffalo in the early 1980s, Drummer would embark on an extraordinary body of work that would preoccupy him for the next two decades. Drummer’s late work is clearly related to, and expands upon, the histories of minimal, post-minimal and process-orientated art. His approach is empathetic with that of the Italian Arte Povera artists, sharing their interest and investment in ‘poor’ and quotidian materials. Working almost exclusively with ‘found’ materials, and specifically materials that had previously been employed and subsequently discarded in industrial and manufacturing processes, Drummer’s work of the 1980s-early 2000s was largely overlooked and unexhibited during his lifetime.
Drummer’s late works employ the rubber ‘blankets’ - used in offest printing to remove excess ink during the printing process – as supports. These ‘ready-made’ supports often revealed aspects of their ‘histories’: their surfaces are typically marked with ghostly images and texts resulting from the printing process. Drummer would then work directly onto and into these ‘pre-prepared’ supports. Drummer’s late works often incorporate impressions taken directly from the surfaces of walls, floors, and fencing, etc. - ‘images’ created by laying the rubber sheets face down onto a desired surface, and then applying pressure from the back of the sheet to create a subsequent negative impression or image of that surface, likely a physically demanding process, akin to making a ‘brass rubbing’ or a monoprint. Drummer would then work into these surface-images, using a wide range of materials including dyes, tar, chalks; and processes like sanding and drawing to create tough yet lyrical works of an often unexpected beauty.
Created as single, paired or multiple panel works, the exhibition at White Columns represents only a small fraction of the 120-plus large-scale works Drummer made during his final two-decades in Buffalo. We hope that the exhibition in New York will expand upon and amplify the growing interest in Drummer’s work that began with the 2016 exhibitions at the BT&C Gallery, Buffalo and the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo. A catalog ‘Jack Drummer: The Effects of Time’ – with a lead essay by Douglas Dreishpoon, Chief Curator Emeritus at the Albright-Knox Art Galley – was published on the occasion of the Burchfield Penney exhibition, and is available to purchase from White Columns.
We would like to thank all of Jack Drummer’s extended family, Anna Kaplan of Anna Kaplan Contemporary Gallery, Buffalo (formerly BT&C Gallery), Scott Propeack and the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Douglas Dreishpoon, and Pam Glick for their enthusiasm and support of this project.