WILLIAM GLEN CROOKS - DRAWINGS - BOOK I
Drawings portfolios are rare these days, as are gifted draftsmen, but very few are as worthy, significant or well deserved as this one.
William Glen Crooks is a tragic figure. At 18 he was an art prodigy with an obsessive work ethic. If he was sitting he was drawing. If he was standing he was painting. He was always in the middle of a personal, aesthetic revolution and he dismissed any artist who wasn’t. He turned to landscape painting to make a living and by the 1990s he became a self-proclaimed “Eakins” realist. His work lived up to the tag and his heroic landscape painting was in demand with buyers all over the world. At 60, a time when an artist of his background and commitment should have been on the cusp of his most powerful, experienced and inspired work, his development began to slow down, unexplainably. His work became facile and repetitive and before long it wasn’t really going anyplace, and he knew it. At 66, he walked out of his studio, where he had put in 10 -12 hour work days for over 45 years, and he quit, just like that.
He was a casualty of early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
It was a dreadful fate for a unique artist, gifted, funny, brilliant, critical, but if you really wanted to know who William Glen Crooks was, you had to look at his drawings, Seen only by a handful of friends, they were his most personal and intimate statements. They begin when Crooks was in grade school, and he drew at least 10,000 of them before he retired, most before he turned 24. A great many were on cheap newsprint, stuffed into grocery boxes. His friends didn’t want to see them disintegrate, they were a unique visual journal of a long and very committed aesthetic journey. In 2020 we came together and tried to make something comprehensive out of the utterly disorganized stacks he left behind. A brutally edited selection of around 1,000 were scanned digitally. 400 or so made the cut for this book and for volume II.
Of course, None of this would matter if the drawings were not good. Many are in fact marvels.
Early drawings inform the 1st volume, and chronicle his breakneck evolution from High school newspaper cartoonist to a past master of the essential and telling gesture, rendered either from memory, imagination or from life with many expressionist ideas tossed in for drama. Dissatisfied with that, we see him evolve into its opposite, a formal classicist and realist. On the way he stops at some very crazy, even dangerous places, from the glam rock scene of the early 70s, to the mean streets of downtown San Diego. The book culminates in “Benny Secore” 1975, a great American etching that incorporates all the elements he had mastered at just 23.
Paperbound - 142 page - 250 reproductions - Color