Make no mistake: Craig Drennen is among the most serious-minded of Atlanta artists. As a painter of deeply literary inclinations, a self-professed bibliophile, and a thinker of remarkable clarity, he carries history with him and ponders his role in it with almost every utterance.
Also: Craig Drennen is hilarious. His tendency toward self-puncturing wit means that approximately 98 percent of those aforementioned utterances about his role in history are mocking ones. He has, after all, perpetrated several versions of a performative installation called Craig Drennen Is Awful.
What may be less clear about that self-puncturing title is that awful, in addition to being a simple predicate adjective, is also the (Courtney Love) song Drennen plays, repeatedly, ad nauseam, during the aforementioned performance/s. Also, Awful constitutes a kind of alias, both for Drennen, who performs masked as himself, and for a character of Shakespeares’s also known as Apemantus and as the Churlish Philosopher. Since 2008 Drennen has organized his artistic practice around the Bard’s late, somewhat disputed, and seemingly unfinished play Timon of Athens. Drennen creates a whole series of works around each character in that play, and in some exhibitions even pits one such body of work “against” another. At Brooklyn Fireproof Gallery in 2015, for example, the marquee event was New Mistress vs. Old Athenians — an anatomical portrait based upon a digital photograph of some anonymous donor’s nether regions juxtaposed with heavily mediated images of Warhol associate Udo Kier playing Dracula.
Drennen teaches painting, drawing, and critical writing at Georgia State University. He served as a dean at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, where he had previously attended as a participant. His MFAs, from Ohio University, are in painting and art history. Among his recent exhibitions/works are Ninth Mistress vs. Dutch AWFUL in Atlanta, (In the) Paint at Lexington’s University of Kentucky Art Museum, and Painter and Servants in Amsterdam. The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia plays host to BANDIT, as one of its Working Artist Project shows, in December 2017. And, as Drennen said in an exchange with artist Steve Locke, Drennen aspires to someday “constitute a corruption of the Shakespeare brand.”
[Condensed from an hourlong recording.]
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