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Still Making Art and Acting Tough

Sculptor James Croak in a still from the film "Young Turks."

Sculptor James Croak in a still from the film “Young Turks.”

croak announcementJames Croak, one of the sculptors profiled in “Young Turks,” will be having an exhibit of his work starting Thursday (March 28, 2013) in Miami.

In the late 1970s and early ’80s, Croak lived and worked in the firehouse at the heart of Skid Row on 5th Street, “Nickel Street, as they call it,” he says in the film. Director Stephen Seemayer interviewed Croak while he was working on a large sculpture called “Vegas Jesus,” which was later shown as part of the “Young Turks” exhibit at the Downtown Gallery in 1981.

James Croak. "Vegas Jesus" (1982)

James Croak. “Vegas Jesus” (1982)

In the film, Croak talks about living in one of the toughest sections of Downtown L.A. “I’ve seen six or seven murders in the last two years here,” he says. “I personally found two of the Skid Row Slasher victims.” Croak says such harrowing experiences led to a fascination with violence that influenced his work. Many of his sculptures in the 1980s featured dead animals — including “Vegas Jesus” with its crucified lamb — but the violent overtones were countered with a whimsical humor and mythical grandeur.

After leaving Los Angeles in the late ’80s, Croak moved to New York and has been working and exhibiting regularly. In 1999, Thomas McEvilly wrote a great monograph on Croak’s body of work, which is available on amazon.com.

Other Turks in the News

In April, Jon Peterson‘s 40 years of work will be the focus of a retrospective at LA Artcore (both galleries), as well as a book with essays by Peter Plagens and Constance Mallinson. Also next month, Stephen Seemayer will have a show of new paintings at the District Arts Gallery.

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