Sue Coe - Malcolm X'

Michael Brenson, The New York Times, November 14, 1986

Sue Coe - ''Malcolm X'' (P.S. 1, 46-01 21st Street, Long Island City, Queens): Sue Coe's ''X'' or ''Malcolm X'' series is an extended and ongoing tribute to the assassinated black leader. The paintings and drawings are inspired by events in Malcolm X's life, each one dramatized by the artist's breathless and ghostly expressive style. Coe identifies with the repressed. Capitalism is presented as an unmitigated evil; every conceivable injustice and abuse is laid at its doorstep.


The artistic problems posed by this viewpoint are considerable. There are no real people in these works, just abstractions of good and evil. There is also a constant danger of illustration; the human figure is used to mobilize feeling and make points. Coe needs her fury to be matched by her approach to materials. In the deliberate medium of painting, she is not yet at home.


With black pencil on white paper, however, this stark, utterly black-and-white vision can generate powerful and chilling effects. Coe is one of the most inventive and gifted graphic artists around. On paper her images of Malcolm X and his family in the hands of white monsters and witches can embody outrage. Coe can turn black into different colors and give it the inevitability of blood. When she frames drawings so that they look like prints or photographs, she builds into the image a moment of hesitation and groping that makes the content stronger. (Through Dec. 21.) 

of 143