Galerie St. Etienne
Sue Coe's newest series of mixed-media drawings, Sheep of Fools, is the focus of the Galerie St. Etienne's first exhibition of the fall season. The Sheep of Fools series will be exhibited alongside drawings from several related cycles, including Ghost Sheep, Weapons of Mass Destruction, The Man with No Heart, Fowl Plague and Run!
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In Sheep of Fools and the related cycles, Sue Coe continues and expands upon her ongoing interest in the relationship between humans and animals. Whereas her highly acclaimed Porkopolis series in the 1980s entailed an on-the-scene investigation of slaughterhouses and factory farms, the newer work melds factual information with allegorical symbolism. All the series have loose narrative structures that are intended to educate and inspire reform. Meticulous in their detail and often apocalyptic in tone, Coe's latest drawings are reminiscent of Bosch or Breughel. Sheep of Fools (a pun on Sebastian Brant's fifteenth-century catalogue of human vice, Ship of Fools) encompasses a broad history of sheep farming. Starting in the Middle Ages, when the wool industry laid the foundation for England's economic dominance, the story concludes with present-day sheep transports, in which live sheep are shipped by truck and boat, often at great cost in animal and human life. The story of one such deadly transport is the subject of Ghost Sheep, while The Man with No Heart tells of a farmer's negligence toward the livestock entrusted to his care. Fowl Plague focuses on the rise of avian influenza in the Far East, shining a harsh spotlight on the intermingling of human and animal disease under the intensive conditions of modern factory farming and global commerce. Run! Is based on the artist's encounters with deer-hunters in upstate New York, while in Weapons of Mass Destruction, she manages to locate the 'missing' WMDS: in the AIDS pandemic, factory farming and the death penalty.
Sue Coe, who rose to prominence in the early 1980s, has long been acknowledged as one of the foremost social commentators of our time. Her deliberately activist methods are designed to reach the broadest possible spectrum of the American public. Although she has shown repeatedly at museums and galleries throughout the country, publication has always been her preferred means of communication. Upon arriving in the U.S. from her native England in 1972, Coe went almost immediately to the offices of The New York Times, and she has worked steadily for the print media ever since. Wishing to expand beyond the limitations of one-shot commissioned illustration, Coe in the late 1970s began working on extended series of her own choosing. Her first independent book, How to Commit Suicide in South Africa (1983), chronicled the terrors of apartheid and was widely used as an organizational tool on college campuses. Her second, X (on Malcolm X; 1986, reissued 1992), proved prescient in its reappraisal of the slain African-American leader. Over the last two decades, Coe has devoted much attention to animal rights issues. Her highly acclaimed series Porkopolis (published as Dead Meat in 1996) documented animal abuse within the meat industry, while Pit's Letter (published in 2000) told a related story from the point of view of an abandoned pit bull. Bully (published in 2004) was a pre-election send-up of the Bush administration. Like Coe's previous series, Sheep of Fools derides the exploitation of the weak by the strong, a phenomenon that victimizes humans and animals alike.
Sue Coe: Sheep of Fools is documented by a comprehensive checklist, which is available free of charge by mail or can be down-loaded from our website http://www.gseart.com. Copies of the accompanying book Sheep of Fools (with text by Judith Brody) may be purchased from the gallery for $15.00. If you order by mail, please add $8.00 per publication to cover shipping and handling; New York residents, also add sales tax.