Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard at COOPER COLE

Artists: Jibz Cameron, Mira Dancy, Dana DeGiulio, Kerry Downey, Harmony Hammond, Pati Hill, Anna Sew Hoy, Katherine Hubbard, G.B. Jones, Alicia McCarthy, Christina Quarles, Chloe Seibert, Sam Vernon, Jimmy Wright

Exhibition title: Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard

Venue: COOPER COLE, Toronto, Canada

Date: April 5 – May 12, 2018

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and COOPER COLE, Toronto

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.

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

G.B. Jones, Hati and Skoll, 2004, Graphite on paper, 22.5 x 20 in (57.2 x 50.8 cm)

Kerry Downey, How to see in the dark, Part I, 2017, Graphite and collage on paper, 45 x 72 in (114.3 x 182.9 cm)

Dana DeGiulio, Mutter, 2018, Oil on panel, 14 x 11 in (35.6 x 27.9 cm)

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

G.B. Jones, Dead End, 2003, Graphite on paper, 24.5 x 34 in (62.2 x 86.4 cm)

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

Anna Sew Hoy, Circuit, 2007, Denim, t shirt, wood, paint, flocking and polyurethane foam, 28 x 144 x 132 in (71.1 x 365.8 x 335.3 cm)

Anna Sew Hoy, Circuit, 2007, Denim, t shirt, wood, paint, flocking and polyurethane foam, 28 x 144 x 132 in (71.1 x 365.8 x 335.3 cm)

Anna Sew Hoy, Circuit, 2007, Denim, t shirt, wood, paint, flocking and polyurethane foam, 28 x 144 x 132 in (71.1 x 365.8 x 335.3 cm)

Anna Sew Hoy, Circuit, 2007, Denim, t shirt, wood, paint, flocking and polyurethane foam, 28 x 144 x 132 in (71.1 x 365.8 x 335.3 cm)

Anna Sew Hoy, Circuit, 2007, Denim, t shirt, wood, paint, flocking and polyurethane foam, 28 x 144 x 132 in (71.1 x 365.8 x 335.3 cm)

Anna Sew Hoy, Circuit, 2007, Denim, t shirt, wood, paint, flocking and polyurethane foam, 28 x 144 x 132 in (71.1 x 365.8 x 335.3 cm)

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

Mira Dancy, Bend, 2018, Edition of 3 + 1 AP, Vinyl, Dimensions variable

Mira Dancy, Cobra, 2017, Acrylic on paper, 14 x 11 in (35.6 x 27.9 cm)

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

Harmony Hammond, Rim Series #6, 2011, Monotype on paper, 13 x 10.5 in (33 x 26.7 cm)

Jimmy Wright, Roses, 1993/2016, Oil on canvas, 26 x 24 in (66 x 61 cm)

Christina Quarles, Untitled (100 Series), 2014, Ink on paper, 15 x 21 in (38.1 x 53.3 cm)

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

Harmony Hammond, Bandaged Grid #2, 2016, Oil and mixed media on canvas, 20.5 x 32 in (52.1 x 81.3 cm)

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

Sam Vernon, Ghosts, 2009, Pen and ink, xeroxed, 11 x 8.5 in (27.9 x 21.6 cm)

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

Pati Hill, Untitled (paving stone), 1981-1983, Mixed Media, 13.8 x 10.5 in (34.9 x 26.7 cm)

Sam Vernon, Legs, 2009, Pen and ink, xeroxed, 11 x 8.5 in (27.9 x 21.6 cm)

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

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, 2016, Edition 1 of 5 + 2 AP, Silver gelatin print, 16 x 20 in (40.6 x 50.8 cm)

Katherine Hubbard, Untitled (Same sight invert), 2014, Edition 2 of 3 + 2 AP, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in (50.8 x 61 cm)

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

Pati Hill, Untitled (building fragment; Grand Trianon), 1981-1983, Mixed Media, 10.6 x 16 in (27 x 40.6 cm)

Alicia McCarthy, Untitled, 2018, Pencil and spray paint on construction paper, 9 x 12 in (22.9 x 30.5 cm)

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

Dana DeGiulio, Ecce Mono, 2015, Oil on panel, 14 x 11 in (35.6 x 27.9 cm)

Dana DeGiulio, All glass year, 2018, Oil on panel, 9 x 12 in (22.9 x 30.5 cm)

Mira Dancy, Herfume Him, 2014, Acrylic on paper, 14 x 11 in (35.6 x 27.9 cm)

Terribly Vulnerable and Terribly Hard, 2018, exhibition view, COOPER COLE, Toronto

Chloe Seibert, Sad Demon, 2016, Pigmented plaster and wire mesh, 30 x 30 x 35 in (76.2 x 76.2 x 88.9 cm)

Chloe Seibert, Sad Demon, 2016, Pigmented plaster and wire mesh, 30 x 30 x 35 in (76.2 x 76.2 x 88.9 cm)

Chloe Seibert, Sad Demon, 2016, Pigmented plaster and wire mesh, 30 x 30 x 35 in (76.2 x 76.2 x 88.9 cm)

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