Drake Carr

Drake Carr was born in 1993 in Flint, MI, and currently lives and works in New York City, NY. The artist received a BA in Graphic Design from Eastern Michigan University in 2015. Attuned to the diverse contexts in which he creates, Carr employs drawing, painting, and collage, approaching his practice with a versatility that encompasses commissioned portraits drawn in the intimate settings of subjects’ homes, paintings that oscillate between fine art and decoration in the gritty and communal atmosphere of a Bushwick dive bar, and immersive live drawing residencies spanning multiple weeks. Inspired by the fashion illustrators of the 1970s and ’80s like Antonio Lopez, he works with his subjects to style and pose them in dynamic ways. In all of his work, Carr paints a portrait of the communities he moves through that is simultaneously humorous and earnest, exaggerated and true-to-life.

Carr has been drawing since childhood, a practice that informs all aspects of his work and in 2022, the artist took up live drawing. Over the course of a two-week residency hosted by New York Life Gallery, Carr produced 150 portraits of invited subjects ranging from fixtures of New York City nightlife to mavens of the fashion industry, a curated selection of which comprised the resulting exhibition, entitled Walk-ins (2023). He first introduced painting to his practice when he was commissioned to create new works for the walls of Happyfun Hideaway, a queer bar in Brooklyn, NY. This commission saw the emergence of Carr’s distinctive ‘cutouts’ — paintings in which he uses gesture, pose, and style to build a world for his characters, as in Formal Occasion (2023), wherein silhouettes dressed in ball gowns and coattails strike glamorous poses on the walls of the bar. Adopting the bar as a personal gallery, Carr’s cutouts have continued to grace the walls of Happyfun Hideaway, offering the artist an opportunity to observe how patrons engage with his work. For Carr, the act of creation is often importantly linked to the notion of providing a service, be it through his commissioned works for shops or bars or his commissioned portraits that capture the character of his subjects.

At the heart of Carr’s artistic vision is a profound appreciation for fashion and style, which he integrates into his work by carefully curating specific looks with his sitters or by drawing inspiration from eclectic garments — a stranger’s ripped-up jeans or too-tight tube top — that he encounters on the streets of New York City. These carefully chosen sartorial elements adorn the characters, ranging from his closest companions to the whimsical figments of his own invention, that inhabit his creative universe. Throughout his work, the artist skillfully renders portraits that balance beauty and parody, tenderly poking fun at his own communities. “I like having this ironic, funny, tacky, ugly, annoying thing,” says Carr, “but then bring it around so that at some point there’s a meaningfulness, that’s hard to put words to but is heartfelt.”

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