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, who lives with chronic depression and psychosis, 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 equity 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.