Week of April 22, 2004

Apocalyptic 

Week of April 22, 2004

Eric Drooker has a lot to say about society and politics. A poster artist and graphic novelist (he collaborated with the late Allen Ginsberg, creating the graphics for Illuminated Poems), he usually lets his work do the talking in message-laden posters, graphic novels and magazine covers. Drooker is a regular contributor to The New Yorker, but he says editors there have rejected many of his recent submissions, saying they didn't want to project anti-war or seemingly unpatriotic images on the cover.

Still, Drooker says he chooses not to satirize policymakers and leaders. "You don't even have to caricature this cast of characters," he says of George W. Bush's administration. Rather, he tries to focus on the positive. One of his common themes is the creative power of the people. In many of his pieces, mobs of people armed only with musical instruments stand strong against approaching riot police.

Drooker cut his teeth on poster art, creating prints and wheat-pasting them around New York City in the 1980s. These days, he feels a duty to remind viewers about the power of his various mediums. "As writers, poets, visual artists and musicians, we don't have Apache helicopters and F-16s at our disposal," he says. "We just have pens, brushes, computers, guitars and saxophones -- these are our weapons."

Before heading to the Midwest for a series of lectures tied to Lawrence activist issues, Drooker is preparing for this summer's Republican National Convention in New York City. Drooker sounds equally excited and nervous about that particular event, which is sure to be "an apocalyptic blowout," he says. "It's going to be a combination street party, civil disobedience and media circus," he says.

He comes to Lawrence this week to present two music and slide lectures -- barrages of projections, including some of his New Yorker covers and CD covers for bands such as Rage Against the Machine, accompanied by bits of spoken-word and harmonica flourishes.

Drooker says his performance style is influenced by the Beat tradition of spontaneous expression and the comedy of Lenny Bruce. But he says he lets the art do most of the communicating. "Pictures are my mother tongue, and I only intervene to add words where I can add another layer of meaning." -- Michael Vennard

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