Joseph Drapell, an important abstract painter and contemporary of the Painters Eleven, was born in Czechoslovakia in 1940. In the wake of World War II and the totalitarian system of the Soviet Union, Drapell immigrated to Canada, arriving in Halifax in 1966. From 1968-1970 he studied at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Like Alex Cameron and other artists in John Mann’s Collection, Drapell was also greatly influenced by Canadian artist Jack Bush and American critic Clement Greenberg.
During his studies, he began to develop his signature technique of applying paint with a broad spreading device attached to a movable support in even and continuous semi-mechanical sweeps. This method creates a cyclical pattern of diverging streaks, an untraditional way of applying paint to a canvas that recalls Jackson Pollok’s splatters. Drapell’s work maintains a spiritual connection to nature and the landscape, likely inspired by his regular visits to Georgian Bay.
Drapell is affiliated with the Emma Lake Workshops movement and taught his own workshop at the artist retreat in 1988. He was also a member of The New New Painters Group, a group of artists from both the United States and Canada, who have exhibited together internationally since the 1990s and view themselves as successors of Abstract Expressionism and colour field. Drapell and the group are known for their exploration of the possibilities of gel mediums as well as metallic and pearlescent paints, which add fantastic dimensions of light to their work.
Drapell achieved his first artistic breakthrough in 1974 with the Great Spirit Paintings at Jared Sable Gallery in Toronto. Since then he has participated in numerous solo exhibitions throughout Canada. His work is included in private and public Canadian and international collections, for example, at the The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery, Prague, and Albright-Knox Art Gallery.