Jim Drain’s display in our window brings about an unexpected way for the artist's celebrated playful textiles to come full circle. It’s not strange that he’s our featured artist, as we love his work, and his previous inclusion in the Whitney Biennial and status as a recipient of the prestigious Baloise Prize at Art Basel prove that we’re not alone. It’s not strange that he’s making sweaters, as he often works with textiles and found patterns.
However, what is unique about the installation is that it brings a way for the viewer to recontextualize what they would usually expect from the artist. The vintage patterns and found fabrics he commonly works into his vibrant sculptures are gone, and are replaced with new knits created and produced by the artist. Knit to be droopy and bell shaped like your favorite sweater from grandpas closet, but with unique pixilated imagery that resemble what you image sending a picture text of Bill Cosby would be like in 1985, Drains sweaters are a unique and marvelous pastiche to say the least.
We got in a few words with Jim to find out more about his inspirations, technique, and his favorite emoticons.
Opening Ceremony: Tell us a bit about how you came up with the idea of creating these sweaters.
The idea started with a professor at RISD who showed me an industrial knitting machine they had on campus that totally blew my mind! All I could think about for a year was “How do I get on this machine?”, and a year later I was finally able to use it and figure out its technique. A professor at the school let me use it when the students weren’t there – which was such a benefit because I was able to use it to produce all that I wanted. Finally, years of ideas – ideas that came from past designs, from my sculptures, could finally be realized. It’s not as easy as it all sounds though, as the machine I used to make these sweaters was very tempermental and had to follow particular designs and yarns specific to how the machine had to be used.
OC: One of our favorites is the pixel brain sweater – the colored yarns in it are incredible. How did you come about creating a wearable pixelated brain?
Well I started with pixelizing image from architectural books that I found at the Los Angeles library – an idea that I used in a sculpture I had previously done and decided to return to. Messing with the image and trying out different techniques with the material was the most fun. I used a Japanese rainbow and black yarn as well as mohair to experiment and really test what could be done.
OC: The pixilation of your sweaters looks specific to the technology/design of the 80s. Is there a reason you stayed in that time frame?
Pixilation is an important issue for me right now. First seeing it when I was young, I see a connection between pixilation and knitting in that knitting and weaving came first in the same way that this kind of computer pixilation did. They’re also both ways to concentrate and separate color. It’s easy for me to look at Atari imagery and find the crossover with the other images I grew up with and textile techniques like knitting.
OC: What’s your favorite video game?
A Double Dragon Kung Fu-like image is featured on one of the sweaters in the collection – but I’m into The Legend of Zelda too! They’re both pretty old though…
OC: Do you have a favorite or most overused emoticon?
Haha yes there’s a whole page that I found on the Internet where this person categorized some really amazing personalized emoticons. They created some Picasso emoticons that I really love.*
OC: You’ve created costumes for bands like the Gossip and Le Tigre in the past. Aside from the OC customer, who would you love to create clothing for in the future?
I’d do it for the band Men! They’re awesome. I’d do it for Sic Alps too. Music is definitely primary for me.
* Some found Picasso emoticons:
and these too.