Amazing New York artist known best to me for his work on Illuminated Poems, in which his drawings and paintings accompany a selection of Allen Ginsberg poetry selected by the artist himself.

In his Introduction to Illuminated Poems, Ginsberg writes that Drooker was born in New York, the grandchild of immigrant socialists and son of a public school teacher and a computer programmer who took him to art museums. In the 1970s, Drooker graduated from Cooper Union and became involved in local (NYC) activism, participating in rent strikes, supporting local squats, and organizing tenants against police brutality. In the 1980s he worked as a freelance artist for leftist groups and arrested and jailed in the District of Columbia for his postering, which was considered graffiti. (Ginsberg mentions that he started collecting Drooker's posters for their themes of an isolated artist in an increasingly impersonal, class-segregated society.) By the 1990s, Drooker was contributing artwork to The New York Times Op-Ed Page, The Nation, the Village Voice, Newsweek, and The New Yorker. His collaboration with Ginsberg began when Drooker illustrated the poem "The Lion For Real" as part of a St. Mark's Poetry Project New Year's Day 1993 Benefit poster, and expanded to include more illuminations of poems as the two's paths crossed in political and artistic circles.

Drooker's Prologue to Illuminated Poems describes his first encounter with Ginsberg:

The year was 1967 and I was an eight-year-old boy riding the crosstown bus with my mother.

The bus stopped on Avenue A, and a man with black-rimmed glasses and a big black beard entered alone and sat down in front of us.

My mother leaned over and whispered in my ear that the man in front of us was a famous poet.

I didn't know what to think. What did this mean? What did a famous poet do all day... write poems?

As the bus slowly moved forward I sat quietly, looking at the back of his balding head and wondering what he was thinking as we rolled west on 14th Street.

Eric Drooker
Lower East Side
January 15, 1996

Drooker's first book, FLOOD! A Novel in Pictures (Four Walls Eight Windows) won the American Book Award in 1994 and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Art Spiegelman raved about it in the New York Times Book Review, and in fact some of Drooker's more darkly apocalyptical visions are reminiscent of Spiegelman's work.

However, Drooker's style is distinctly his own; I can think of few analogues in my (admittedly limited) knowledge of artists. In Illuminated Poems, his cartoonish humans range from dark silhouettes in the painting that accompanies "Sunflower Sutra" to X-rayed figures with visible skeletons (especially in keeping with "The Ballad of the Skeletons".

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