Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard

Curated by Ashton Cooper

Opening reception: Thursday April 5, 6-8pm

 

COOPER COLE is pleased to present Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, a group exhibition curated by Ashton Cooper.

In James Baldwin’s 1956 novel Giovanni’s Room, the ill-fated lovers David and Giovanni first meet in a fictional Parisian gay bar that serves as a major setting in the book. Among the bar’s regulars are “the usual, knife-blade lean, tight trousered boys” who Baldwin describes as having “something behind their eyes at once terribly vulnerable and terribly hard.”  In considering these policed and unacceptable bodies, Baldwin employs a complex characterization that complicates a straightforward understanding of vulnerability. In intertwining vulnerability with hardness, he allows each term to exceed their oppositional meanings. Their hardness is fragile; their vulnerability is tough.

Further, it is not just Baldwin’s characters that complicate our understanding of vulnerability, but his act of writing the book itself. It is with almost improbable vulnerability and strength that Baldwin chose to publish Giovanni’s Room as a successful young writer and black queer man in the segregated mid-50s. Using the characters in the gay bar — which include our closeted protagonist David, bartender Giovanni, the tight trousered boys, “paunchy gentleman,” “les folles,” and others — Baldwin illustrates a wide spectrum of hardness and vulnerability in which some have more room to be vulnerable while for others it may prove lethal.

Baldwin provokes the question: can vulnerability be used for the purpose of resistance? In a 1984 panel discussion, Gayatri Spivak characterized the deconstructionist project  — which, broadly, is dedicated to challenging metanarratives and scientific rationality — as “a radical acceptance of vulnerability.” For Spivak, the project of rejecting mastery is defined by relinquishing control of monolithic narratives and embracing unknowability. In this way, Spivak provides an interesting lens through which to consider the formal choices that artists might make to reject masterful vision, conclusive narratives, and binary definitions.

In her 2016 essay Rethinking Vulnerability and Resistance, Judith Butler transforms an understanding of vulnerability from being a form of weakness or passivity to being a necessary and radical element of resisting power in a marginalized body. She writes: “I want to argue against the notion that vulnerability is the opposite of resistance. Indeed, I want to argue affirmatively that vulnerability, understood as a deliberate exposure to power, is part of the very meaning of political resistance as an embodied enactment.”

Following the propositions of Baldwin, Spivak, and Butler, the works in this exhibition materialize both strength and vulnerability and frame the body as a site of resistance. Across several drawings, the undressed body is treated with both humor and reverence. Fragile materials rub up against asphalt and paving stones. The landscape is destabilized; holes act as structural markers; metal is twisted and torn; vessels and flora dematerialize. They are at once terribly vulnerable and terribly hard.

Artworks

Alicia McCarthy

Untitled

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Untitled, 2018

Pencil and spray paint on construction paper

9" X 12"
22.86cm X 30.48cm

Katherine Hubbard

Untitled (Same sight invert)

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Untitled (Same sight invert), 2014

Silver gelatin print

20" X 24"
50.8cm X 60.96cm

Katherine Hubbard

Bend the rays more sharply (Photographic print made from a negative embedded in ice at increments of ten degrees between zero and ninety.) No. 3 of 10

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Bend the rays more sharply (Photographic print made from a negative embedded in ice at increments of ten degrees between zero and ninety.) No. 3 of 10, 2016

Silver gelatin print

16" X 20"
40.64cm X 50.8cm

Chloe Seibert

Sad Demon

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Sad Demon, 2016

Pigmented plaster and wire mesh

30" X 30" X 35"
76.2cm X 76.2cm X 88.9cm

Jimmy Wright

Roses

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Roses, 1993/2016

Oil on canvas

26" X 24"
66.04cm X 60.96cm

Pati Hill

Untitled (paving stone)

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Untitled (paving stone), 1981-1983

Print

13.8" X 10.5"
35.05cm X 26.67cm

Pati Hill

Untitled (building fragment; Grand Trianon)

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Untitled (building fragment; Grand Trianon), 1981-1983

Print

10.6" X 16"
26.92cm X 40.64cm

Kerry Downey

How to see in the dark, Part I

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How to see in the dark, Part I, 2017

Graphite and collage on paper

72" X 45"
182.88cm X 114.3cm

Dana DeGiulio

Mutter

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Mutter, 2018

Oil on panel

14" X 11"
35.56cm X 27.94cm

Dana DeGiulio

All glass year

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All glass year, 2018

Oil on panel

9" X 12"
22.86cm X 30.48cm

Dana DeGiulio

Ecce Mono

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Ecce Mono, 2015

Oil on panel

14" X 11"
35.56cm X 27.94cm

Harmony Hammond

Bandaged Grid #2

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Bandaged Grid #2, 2016

Oil and mixed media on canvas

20.5" X 32"
52.07cm X 81.28cm

Harmony Hammond

Rim Series #6

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Rim Series #6, 2011

Monotype on paper

13" X 10.5"
33.02cm X 26.67cm

Jibz Cameron

Kill All Men (lesbian in hot tub)

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Kill All Men (lesbian in hot tub), 2018

Ink on paper

11" X 8.5"
27.94cm X 21.59cm

Jibz Cameron

Gender Traitor

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Gender Traitor, 2018

Ink on paper

11" X 8.5"
27.94cm X 21.59cm

Chrisina Quarles

Untitled (100 Series)

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Untitled (100 Series), 2014

Ink on paper

15" X 21"
38.1cm X 53.34cm

Sam Vernon

Ghosts

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Ghosts, 2009

Pen and ink, xeroxed

11" X 8.5"
27.94cm X 21.59cm

Sam Vernon

Legs

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Legs, 2009

Pen and ink, xeroxed

11" X 8.5"
27.94cm X 21.59cm

Anna Sew Hoy

Circuit

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Circuit, 2007

Denim, t shirt, wood, paint, flocking and polyurethane foam

24" X 144" X 132"
60.96cm X 365.76cm X 335.28cm

Mira Dancy

Bend

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Bend, 2018

Vinyl

Edition of 3 + 1 AP

Dimensions variable

Mira Dancy

Cobra

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Cobra, 2017

Acrylic on paper

14" X 11"
35.56cm X 27.94cm

Mira Dancy

Herfume Him

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Herfume Him, 2014

Acrylic on paper

14" X 11"
35.56cm X 27.94cm

G.B. Jones

Dead End

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Dead End, 2003

Graphite on paper

24.5" X 34"
62.23cm X 86.36cm

G. B. Jones

Hati and Skoll

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Hati and Skoll, 2004

Graphite on paper

22.5" X 20"
57.15cm X 50.8cm