METAL GODS: PHO­TOG­RA­PHER ARTHUR DROOKER

Pasatiempo - - MIXED MEDIA -

An enor­mous steel claw is clos­ing its grip on the top of a stack of flat­tened, crum­pled au­to­mo­biles. This ac­tion shot from pho­tog­ra­pher Arthur Drooker’s

Heavy Metal se­ries con­trasts the blue, red, pur­ple, and grey car bod­ies with the dirty, naked-steel claw mech­a­nism. “It’s called a ‘grap­ple’ in the in­dus­try,” said Drooker, a Bay Area res­i­dent who de­scribed th­ese pho­to­graphs — many of which are be­ing shown at Patina Gallery (131 W. Palace Ave., 505-986-3432) — as the re­al­iza­tion of an idea he has long nur­tured. “For years I’ve been in­trigued by the sculp­tures of John Cham­ber­lain. He would take scrap, typ­i­cally from cars, and weld it into in­ter­est­ing art­works. I thought that it would be in­ter­est­ing to do some­what of a pho­to­graphic equiv­a­lent of that and years later, in 2013, I be­gan pur­su­ing the idea se­ri­ously.”

Through a for­tu­itous set of cir­cum­stances, he was granted ac­cess to the mas­sive Sch­nitzer Steel In­dus­tries re­cy­cling fa­cil­ity on the Oak­land wa­ter­front. When he found out that he was the first pho­tog­ra­pher the com­pany had ever ad­mit­ted, he felt like an ur­ban ex­plorer. He thinks

Grap­ple is the first pho­to­graph he took. “It was early in the morn­ing, and all th­ese flatbed trucks were lined up with stacks of pan­caked cars on them. Then a huge crane with that gi­ant grap­ple would ba­si­cally pick up a bunch of the cars at once and stack them in much higher stacks.”

An­other pho­to­graph, sim­ply ti­tled Stack, is a de­tail from one of those tall piles of flat­tened ve­hi­cles. “It’s an ex­am­ple of what I wanted to do, sim­i­lar to the Cham­ber­lain works, try­ing to make some­thing ab­stract and in­ter­est­ing out of con­sumer cul­ture’s dis­cards.” The next mo­ment in this scrap-metal story is il­lus­trated in Shred­der, a photo of a large, bizarre con­trap­tion that looks a lit­tle like a build­ing. From those tall stacks, the flat­tened cars are trans­ported by con­veyor belt into this “megashred­der” fa­cil­ity. “When it leaves, the shred­ded metal is piled up and put on cargo con­tain­ers on ships to Asia, where it’s re­cy­cled into cheap steel,” Drooker said. The other im­ages in the Heavy Metal port­fo­lio of­fer in­ter­est­ing per­spec­tives on masses of scrap wire, rail­road rails, li­cense plates, ra­di­a­tors, and other ob­jects. The ex­hi­bi­tion opens with an artist re­cep­tion at Patina Gallery on Fri­day, Nov. 13, at 5 p.m.

Drooker also has a brand-new book out from Univer­sity of New Mex­ico Press: Pie Town Re­vis­ited, which fea­tures his pho­to­graphs of a city that was first doc­u­mented in 1940 by Farm Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion pho­tog­ra­pher Rus­sell Lee. A book sign­ing is sched­uled for 2 p.m. Satur­day, Nov. 14, at Col­lected Works (202 Gal­is­teo Street, 505-988-4226). — Paul Wei­de­man

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