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John E. (Jack) Drummer (1935-2013), Untitled, 2004-06; stretched rubber with tar and rubber stitching, 4 panels, 96 x 84 inches; Courtesy of the artist

John E. (Jack) Drummer (1935-2013), Untitled, 2004-06; stretched rubber with tar and rubber stitching, 4 panels, 96 x 84 inches; Courtesy of the artist

John E. (Jack) Drummer

John E. (Jack) Drummer


John E. Drummer is part of the Living Legacy Project at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. Listen to the recollections below. 



John E. Drummer, better known as Jack Drummer, lived in Buffalo New York. Many of his works consisted of large stretched rubber canvases. He was born in 1935, and passed away June 24th, 2013.

"A native of Buffalo born in 1935, John E. Drummer lived through numerous movements in painting. Today, when many galleries exhibit work as part of clean, pristine installations, Drummer is creating the opposite effect. His 'paintings' are made on the floor, and as a result they are dirty; yet, this is not an intentional statement about filth. The complete "Untitled" series is made of black, stretched rubber. The large wall hangings are sanded, stitched with rubber, and sometimes painted on with tar, taking on the color and strong smell of industrial materials. These works are depressing in such a sharp, pointed manner that they can be described as sublime.

A traditional painter may try to communicate this darkness by using black paint on a stretched canvas, but in this case the traditional painter has only succeeded in creating a metaphor for melancholia. Drummer, however, is not painting illusions. His rubber paintings are raw, pure offerings of emotion. They all have a musty, earthy presence. With some of the works measuring as large as nine feet by nine feet, they engulf the viewer in a powerful atmosphere that can be troubling and difficult to process. Despite this darkness, the works are truly beautiful, and most importantly, they are honest and real. " [1]


Jack's personal narrative statement from 2007 reads:

"Art was always there. As a kid I was obsessed with oil cloth table covers, the Texaco gas station sign outside my window, and billboards along the road. Color combinations seemed to have one of two distinc effects - they stunned or annoyed me. Everything translated through the eye. The purity I found in studing the Classics related directly to the purity I found in painting. I discovered that i could make the things that intrigued me, not even realising how or why they did. In the early 1950s, with the acquisition of modern art, the museum because my playground, and painting, my reality.

At twenty years old I was making my own work and testing its worth against what I saw. It became a sport, a challenge. I was particularly drawn to paintings that were not paintings, but combinations of materials as exemplified by the works of Conrad Marca-Relli, Alberto Burri, and Antoni Tapies.

Plaster, wood, metal - that is, the materials of my work became my paint and color was a fortunate accident. Moving to New York in 1959, Eleanor Ward's Stable Gallery taught me how to put my ideas together. Fifteen years working in New York City, in the 1960s as well as the 1980s, was an education and an introduction to the artists of the period. Robert mallory was my strongest personal influence. His wall pieces showed me power without flailing the paint.

For twelve years I made polyurethane sculpture in Hawaii. These large, organic pieces fit into the landscape without intruding. While there weren't any galleries on the islands that could exhibit these large, two-story pieces, a number were purcased for private collections, some of which I can no longer recollect. This was a peaceful and productive time for me. When I finally returned to Buffalo in 1990, I discovered the wonderful strangeness of rubber and tar, which I continue to work in today. I have two significant bodies of work assembled (approximately 100 works) consisting of large airy-colored rubber, and its opposite in land-locked black in both rubber and tar. They are very satisfying. And art is still there." [2]




[1] Holt, Thomas J. "John E. Drummer" Beyond/In Western New York, 2007 p. 74.

[2] Jack Drummer, "Personal Narrative Statement" 2007.


Photograph of Jack Drummer by John Massier.