Bio by Allen Ginsberg
I first glimpsed Eric Drooker's odd name on posters pasted on fire-alarm sides, construction walls checkered with advertisements, & lamppost junction boxes in the vortex of Lower East Side Avenues leading to Tompkins Square Park, where radical social dislocation mixed homeless plastic tents with Wigstock transvestite dress-up anniversaries, Rastas sitting on benches sharing spliff, kids with purple Mohawks, rings in their noses ears eyebrows and bellybuttons, adorable or nasty skinheads, wives with dogs & husbands with children strolling past jobless outcasts, garbage, and a bandshell used weekly for folk-grunge concerts, anti-war rallies, squatters' rights protests, shelter for blanket-wrapped junkies & winos and political thunder music by Missing Foundation, commune-rockers whose logo, an overturned champagne glass with slogan "The Party's Over," was spray-painted on sidewalks, apartments, brownstone and brick walled streets.
Eric Drooker's numerous block-print-like posters announced much local action, especially squatters' struggles and various mayoral-police attempts to destroy the bandshell & close the Park at night, driving the homeless into notoriously violence-corrupted city shelters. Tompkins Park had a long history of political protest going back before Civil War anti-draft mob violence, memorialized as ". . . a mixed surf of muffled sound, the atheist roar of riot," in Herman Melville's The Housetop: A Night Piece (July 1863).
I began collecting Drooker's posters soon after overcoming shock, seeing in contemporary images the same dangerous class conflict I'd remembered from childhood, pre-Hitler block print wordless novels by Frans Masereel and Lynd Ward. Ward's images of the solitary artist dwarfed by the canyons of a Wall Street Megalopolis lay shadowed behind my own vision of Moloch. What "shocked" me in Drooker's scratchboard prints was his graphic illustration of economic crisis similar to Weimar-American 1930's Depressions.
In our own era, as one Wall Street stockbroker noted, "Reagan put the nation in hock to the military," with resulting collapse of human values & social stability. Drooker illuminated the widely-noted impoverishment of underclass, "diminishing expectations" of middleclass city dwellers, and transfer of disproportionate shares of common wealth to those already rich. This economic information, including facts of multi-billion savings & loan bankruptcies paid for by federal funds, was reported in neutral tones by newspapers of record but Drooker illustrated the city's infrastructural stress, housing decay, homelessness, garbage-hunger and bitter suffering of marginalized families, Blacks and youth, with such vivid detail that the authoritarian reality horror of our contemporary dog-eat-dog Malthusian technoeconomic class-war became immediately visible.
". . . It is a question of genuine values, human worth, trustworthiness," Thomas Mann commented, introducing Frans Masereel's novel in woodcuts Passionate Journey. Drooker spent his childhood on East 14th Street & Avenue B, exploring the city early, observing "shopping bag ladies, stretch-cadillacs, screaming unshaven men, junkies nodding, Third Avenue prostitutes looking at themselves in rearview mirrors of parked cars." His maternal grandparents were 1930's socialists, his mother taught in the neighborhood's PS 19, on 11th Street & First Avenue, his father, white-collar computer programmer, tripped him to art museums all over city.
1970's he attended Henry Street Settlement art classes, graduated from Cooper Union, moved permanently to East 10th Street close to Tompkins Park. Following family tradition he organized rent strikes, supported local squats and tenant organizing against police brutality. By 1980's working as freelance artist for many leftist groups, with reputation as radical street art-provocateur, he was arrested and thrown in District of Columbia jail for postering. In "denial" of economic crisis, city bureaucrats cracked down on Punk and political postering as a "public nuisance." Xeroxed flyers were considered "illegal graffiti."
By 1990's observant Op-ed editors at The New York Times invited him to contribute art for their pages, as did The Nation, Village Voice and Newsweek. Under a new post-modern regime at The New Yorker, he published many illustrations, even covers, including a celebrated image of two bums huddled round a bright garbage-can fire as big snowflakes fell under the Brooklyn Bridge. His novel in pictures, Flood!, with its fantastic social dreams, won an American Book Award.
Our collaboration volume began as byproduct of an illustration of my poem The Lion For Real for his St. Mark's Poetry Project New Year's Day 1993 Benefit poster.
As I'd followed his work over a decade, I was flattered that so radical an artist of later generations found the body of my poetry still relevant, even inspiring. Our paths crossed often, we took part in various political rallies and poetical-musical entertainments, the idea of a sizable volume of illustrated poem-pictures rose. Eric Drooker himself did all the work choosing texts (thankfully including many odd lesser-known scriblings) and labored several years to complete these Illuminated Poems.
Drooker and Ginsberg in Allen's kitchen on East 12th Street, New York City
Photo ©1995 Arne Svenson
Slingshot: 40 Postcards by Eric Drooker
Author and Illustrator: Eric Drooker
Publisher: PM Press
Page count: 84
Subjects: Postcard Book/Art-Illustration
Disguised as a book of innocent postcards, Slingshot is a dangerous collection of Eric Drooker’s most notorious posters. Plastered on brick walls from New York to Berlin, tattooed on bodies from Kansas to Mexico City, Drooker’s graphics continue to infiltrate and inflame the body politic. Drooker is the author of two graphic novels, Flood! A Novel in Pictures (winner of the American Book Award), and Blood Song: A Silent Ballad. He collaborated with Beat poet Allen Ginsberg on the underground classic Illuminated Poems. His provocative art has appeared on countless posters and book covers, and his hard-edged graphics are a familiar sight on street corners throughout the world. Eric Drooker is a third-generation New Yorker, born and raised on Manhattan Island. His paintings are frequently seen on covers of the New Yorker and hang in various art collections throughout the U.S. and Europe.
“Drooker’s old Poe hallucinations of beauteous deathly reality transcend political hang-up and fix our present American dreams.”
“When the rush of war parades are over, a simple and elegant reminder of humanity remains—in the work of Eric Drooker.”
General Strike T-shirt
Proclaim your politics wearing this black Union made T-shirt in your choice of language (see product images tab) whose front presents a powerful full size Eric Drooker graphic in red and white, and a PM Press logo on the back in white and red.
The shirt is available in English, Spanish, or Arabic (see product images tab). Please specify which language you'd like when ordering by using the comments field at checkout.
A portion of each sale will be donated to the IWW General Strike Fund.
Inspire the spirit of resistance wherever you go in this striking American made black T shirt, with full size red and white Eric Drooker print on the front and a second equally beautiful print on the back above the small Drooker designed PM logo.
Proclaim your politics wearing this American made black T shirt whose front presents a powerful full size Eric Drooker graphic in white, and a full size 'classic' Drooker logo on the back in white and red.
Proclaim your politics wearing this American made black T shirt whose front presents a powerful full size Eric Drooker graphic in white, and a full size ‘classic Drooker logo on the back in white and red.
- Eric Drooker Takes Aim With Slingshot: San Francisco Bay Guardian
- Lower East Side Story: East Bay Express
Eric Drooker Takes Aim With Slingshot
By Ben Terrall
San Francisco Bay Guardian
Although Eric Drooker has lived and painted in Berkeley for the last ten years, nine times out of ten his dreams still take place in New York City. Drooker grew up in a seventh-floor apartment building near Manhattan's Lower East Side. He's famous for drawing cityscapes that press against the edge of the page and crush out the organic forms: bruising, two-dimensional illustrations of steel-framed skyscrapers, subways, soft drink billboards, electric nightclub signs, tenement fire escapes, the East River, and the Williamsburg Bridge. These drawings have a very specific time and place (Brooklyn or Manhattan, usually in the 1970s, almost always the same view), but they employ metaphors that anyone could pick up and understand. His mass-produced poster art, some of which is collected in the new postcard book, Slingshot, operates in much the same way. The images might have a specific origin and intention, but what they depict — a dove flying over the subway train, or a barefoot woman kicking a policeman — is universal and eternal...