January 15 2016

Jim Drain's 'Donk' Poster Celebrates Miami's Sublime Ridiculousness

Miami-Art Inspection
This month we're celebrating 10 years of a Standard in Miami. 10 years of sunsets, tempests and temporary art installs. In a town where retinal delights reign supreme, it seemed fitting that we should commemorate this milestone with something visual, something colorful, something that evokes our misfit island. In collaboration with The Posters, we created this exclusive poster by Miami-based artist Jim Drain, who in a moment of vehicular inspiration made sense of this absurd and wonderful town. "Donk," refers to the custom car subculture which he thought the perfect metaphor for Miami's clash of natural beauty and artificial exuberance. Mr. Drain further explains his inspiration: 

Jim Drain:
I’ve been interested in getting design ‘wrong’ in the same way that words mutate in a game of telephone. Growing up in the Midwest in the '80s, it felt as if information never got over the Appalachian Mountains or the Rockies very clearly. Everything felt to have the same weight; culture seemed to be democratized to the point of grey sludge. But, there is something so right in this wrongness. 

When I saw Gardar Eide Einarsson’s instagram image of Christmas ribbon, the post really stuck with me. It reduced “Christmas” to simple geometry that evoked such a specific time and place: it was 60’s Danish design attached to 80’s American commodity. For some reason this design approach seemed like the perfect vehicle to show my favorite things about South Florida: the Everglades and Donk culture.  I wanted to present both in a different way, through this unfamiliar, foreign graphic construct. 

"This poster is an homage to South Florida...It honors the special stew of weirdness, color and vibrancy."

I am not an expert in the Everglades, and even less of an expert in Donk culture. To even think that I could be representative of either (or of even Miami or cars in general) alone is pretty ridiculous. I could easily regurgitate the Donk wiki info here; instead, I can relate my experience anecdotally: seeing a Donk on Biscayne and 36th pulled up to the gas station on a late January Saturday night is a holy experience: the rims, the colors, the finish, the interior, the speakers, the bass. It’s like spotting a Purple Gallinule on Anhinga Trail. The poster’s donks, alligators, the ibises: they are a South Florida species that is not only resilient, but triumphant, brash, and beautiful. 

This poster is an homage to South Florida and to its spirit of resistance and resilience. It honors the special stew of weirdness, color and vibrancy. They are things continually under threat and sit on a precipice of disaster (if not erasure), whether via hurricane, rising sea levels, or structural racism. The persistence of Donk culture and the beauty of the Everglades continually inspires. In this way, even if the ‘305 hands’ are not my own and never will be ‘mine,’ these images represent something I have been able to hold onto as truly South Floridian and truly powerful.

Art + Words
Jim Drain