Prison Drawings — An Imaginary Collection
Artist book, Reference book
800 pages, illustrations in color and b&w, 21.6 × 29.7 cm, digital printing, softcover
Published by Samuel Bänziger, Thomas Galler, Krispin Hee, Georg Rutishauser and Tim Wetter
Designed by Krispin Hee and Samuel Bänziger
edition fink, Zürich, ISBN 978-3-03746-246-1
Prison Drawings is an image archive comprising several thousand drawings. It is based on digital images from the Internet and was made into a collection by Thomas Galler between 2006 and 2020. All drawings are by prisoners and were created in the course of their incarceration or custody. The collection’s main part represents works from American prisons from the present, the oldest dating back to the 1950s. With the advent of the Internet, a market for murder memorabilia—also called murderabilia— became established, where letters, photographs, hair, and pieces of clothing as well as drawings, paintings and collages are offered for sale on relevant websites. The way they are displayed, with detailed captions, biographies, descriptions of crimes, and photographs from the crime scenes, testify to a cult of artefacts from the hands of offenders.
Prison Drawings – An Imaginary Collection presents an insight into this collection and illustrates the various concepts and works as a catalogued archive. From this pool of material, Thomas Galler draws templates and image typologies and from this develops his own graphic work. Appropriation runs like a thread through both the collection as well as the artwork, both crystallising in Galler’s strategy and featuring explicitly in the publication’s subject matter. Content from film, comics, literature, pornography, and classic genres of art such as landscape, still life, nude, and portrait have an essential influence on the production of images. Here a discourse with pictorial motifs from mass culture becomes evident in contemporary as well as historical works since the 1960s and 1970s. Other positions lie in Art Brut or the Outsider Art tradition and manifest themselves in a crude, poetic visual language.