Since the 1970s, Sue Coe (British and American, b. 1951) has worked at the juncture of art and activism to expose injustices and abuses of power. Protesting various forms of exploitation and violence, she tackles issues of sexism, racism, economic inequality, xenophobia, and animal cruelty. Graphic Resistance highlights these concerns in a selection of drawings, prints, and large-scale collages, as well as illustrations that Coe produced for newspaper opinion pages.
Art’s persuasive power has long been understood by rulers and rebels alike. Situated in a lineage of socially-engaged artists from Francisco Goya and Käthe Kollwitz to Leon Golub, Coe harnesses this capacity in works that depict suffering to call her audiences to action. She challenges complacency by spotlighting subjects that are typically relegated to the margins of attention, demanding that the vulnerabilities she pictures be not simply seen, but felt. “Neutrality,” she has stated, is “no longer a position we can afford.”
The trajectory of Coe’s practice, which responds to current events, doubles as a history of sociopolitical issues and activist causes. The exhibition traces some of her concerns, beginning with a selection of works from the 1980s that address the societal and environmental effects of Reagan-era free market economic policy and social conservatism. It follows Coe’s concurrent advocacy for animal rights and passionate fight against industrialized slaughter—which remain among her primary targets today—and includes works that confront the first Gulf War, the devastations of Hurricane Katrina, and escalating xenophobia in recent politics.
Sue Coe: Graphic Resistance is organized by Peter Eleey, Chief Curator, with Josephine Graf, Curatorial Assistant, MoMA PS1.