Jimmy Crow and the Imaginary Thug: Coby Kennedy @ Superchief Gallery, NYC
Superchief Gallery proudly presents Jimmy Crow and the Imaginary Thug, a solo exhibition of sculptural and 2D studio work by multidisciplinary artist Coby Kennedy opening on Thursday, February 25, 2021. The show, which serves as the New York based creative's second solo outing with the gallery, centers around a narrative of afrofuturism, born from America's dark history of racial conflict and set in a near future world directly reflecting today’s mass media and propaganda.
In his work, Kennedy addresses the misapplication of the word Thug. Often used as a catch-all term for Black youths in the minds of privileged white America, the Thug is presented in Kennedy’s universe as the Thuggernaut, a weaponized biological slur created by manipulating stolen fetuses from the black community, gestating them into huge metal pachydermic shells. Now four stories tall, with six humongous lumbering brown arms, an oversized threatening genitalia and one cycloptic eye glaring victimizingly down from its bulking hardened steel shell of a body, they are set loose to roam the urban landscape dishing out death, self genocide and general sociopathic behavior designed to destroy black society from within.
Manifesting alongside (and emboldened as a consequence of) The Thuggernaut, a golem entity known as Jimmy Crow emerges. Composed of all the angst and pain experienced throughout the Black Diaspora in North America, Jimmy Crow took the name of the post-Civil War era that brought atrocities against Black people in America through untold violence and terrorism. A spirit of vengeance, Jimmy Crow is a force of reciprocity through destruction, and salvation through mythology.
These archetypes exist in the artist’s larger body of work titled In the Service of A Villain. The narrative explores intra-racial colorism through a vast civil war between light and dark skin Black people set in what’s come to be known as “The Kingdom of Brooklyn”. Observing the power of contemporary advertising and entertainment, the artist imagines how a culture, raised solely on today’s highly problematic mass media, would inevitably build their society in the future.
The artist’s use of gel transfers onto ballistic grade kevlar as canvas speak directly to the themes of conflict and protection. Weapons recovered from the Kingdom of Brooklyn line the walls menacingly as images of the horned Jimmy Crow blindly leer from their broken frames. Large scale Thuggernaut exoskeletons are hung in the center of the gallery, complete with exposed organs, giving light to the intentions of their creators. Kennedy creates artwork that gives the viewer the sense that they are studying relics from a parallel world, as if this was an exhibition within an alternative reality’s Metropolitan Museum.
Coby is one of 16 visual artists being featured in the new "Flowstate" docuseries by All Arts/PBS & Cyprian Films, which chronicles their work during the COVID19 pandemic & lockdown: https://allarts.org/2021/02/flowstate-north-brooklyn-artists. We will share his episode next month.