Art Confronts Issues of War and Bigotry: 'Mad as Hell! New Work (and Some Classics) by Sue Coe'
Peter Plagens, The Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2012
Sue Coe (b. 1951) is the real deal in social-comment art: ferocious, extreme, raw and mentionable in the same breath as George Grosz or even Goya. Forget all this middle-class American whining about income disparity, she tells us in "Animals Are the 99%" (2012): These helpless animals, who live in painful confinement and experience terror from the moment they know they're going to be slaughtered, are the real majority of salient creatures oppressed by our society. Ms. Coe's wicked style—large, intensely rendered expressionist drawings with lighting right out of the darkest film noir—doesn't spare trendy, free-range locavores, either. In one work, she depicts them somnambulating in front of a health-food store while bleeding animal carcasses are delivered in the rear.
War—particularly the bombardment of brown and yellow people by white armies—and the excesses of capitalism (as in "Cruel," 2011) have been Ms. Coe's most common subject since she moved from illustrating for the New York Times, Time magazine and the New Yorker into her own "mad as hell" art, first exhibited in the East Village almost 30 years ago. Our world isn't quite as cruel and decadent as Ms. Coe makes it out to be. But her scolding helps keep us from sliding down the ever-slippery slope toward that nightmare.