Project Ability is pleased to announce the first solo exhibition outside of the United States by the New York-based artist Derrick Alexis Coard (b. 1981 Brooklyn.) The exhibition has been curated by Matthew Higgs, the director of New York’s White Columns – the city’s oldest not-for-profit alternative space – and installed at Project Ability in collaboration with the Glasgow-based artist Jim Lambie. The exhibition is a part of the 2016 Glasgow International festival of contemporary art.
Derrick Alexis Coard is a self-taught artist who is affiliated with New York’s Healing Arts Initiative (H.A.I.), a center that supports adult artists with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities. Coard has worked with H.A.I. for the past seven years.
Coard’s exhibition is rooted in his drawing practice, and is centered around a large group of his signature imagined ‘portraits’ of bearded African American men. A prodigiously talented artist since childhood, in an autobiographical statement Coard has stated: “At the age of four I started to draw beyond a child’s natural ability. I was very gifted for my age. My art has evolved over the years as I have gotten older, and during my adolescence I started drawing images of bearded black men. My art is my voice for the human race. I use [images of] bearded black men as a symbolic expression for possible change in the African American community. My work is a form of testimonial where black men can be seen in a more positive and righteous light.”
Writing in Artforum about Coard’s 2015 exhibition at White Columns critic Michael Wilsonwrote: “While a renewed focus on the United States’ deep-seated institutional racism … now inflects our reading of any practice that aims to show black men in a more sympathetic light, the common aura of profound self-possession of Coard’s subjects survives. In spite of their modest materials and scale, [Coard’s drawings] have a heroic cast and monolithic heft. Indeed it’s hard to accept the works’ depicted men as fictional, since they are rendered with such conviction.”
In the current polarized landscape of American politics, where the aspirant Presidential candidate Donald Trump can call for a ban on Muslims traveling to the United States as the Black Lives Matter movement demands equality for African Americans in in the political process, Coard’s deeply empathetic work, which explores the complex questions of race, spirituality, sexuality, and identity, finds perhaps an even greater agency and sense of urgency.
Image: ‘Fighting The Good Fight’, 2014
Derrick Alexis Coard (b. 1981, Brooklyn, New York) has his first solo exhibition at White Columns in 2014, and a subsequent solo exhibition ‘Beard Gang Azure’ at H.A.I., New York, in 2015. Coard is a recent recipient of two prestigious art awards – the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award and the Wynn Newhouse Award.
Over the past decade White Columns has collaborated extensively with centers that support artists with mental and developmental disabilities including Healing Arts Initiative (H.A.I.), New York; Creative Growth, Oakland, California: the National Institute for Arts & Disabilities (N.I.A.D.), Richmond, California; and Fountain House Gallery, New York, among others.
Matthew Higgs and White Columns would like to acknowledge the enthusiasm and support of Quimetta Perle and the staff at H.A.I. (To learn more about H.A.I. visit: http://www.hainyc.org) We would like to also express our since thanks to everyone at Project Ability, and Sarah McCrory and the entire team at the Glasgow International. We would also like to thank Jim Lambie for his commitment to and collaboration on this project, and finally we would like to acknowledge Derrick Alexis Coard for sharing his extraordinary art with us.