There’s not much that I can say which hasn’t been said before about Coarse‘s creative concepts, exquisite sculpting, and immaculate production values. And while all these traits have been present since Mark Landwehr took his first steps towards forming the studio in 2002, I feel that a more important landmark year for Coarse happened in 2008. Specifically, September of 2008. That’s when the Noop Show opened at Chicago’s Rotofugi Gallery, this exhibit being where the public first saw the results of Sven Waschk becoming a collaborative partner in the studio as well as being introduced to the enduring characters of Paw! and Noop. In fact, it feels strangely right that almost a decade later, Coarse have revisited Noop for the set we’re focusing on today, which is titled Protect Me.

A Brief History of Noop

Now for those unfamiliar with Noop, this name not only can be taken as referring to a specific character but also to the human-like species to which it belongs. Hailing from a realm known as the elastomer, this is the dwelling place of creatures known as Paw!s, Locks, Nisms, and, of course, Noops, all of which seem to grow on trees like fruit. And one of the first glimpses into this world that the public were granted came in the form of False Friends, an exercise in sculptural story telling wherein Paw!’s misplaced trust had been given to a deceptively dressed Noop.

My Impressions of Protect Me

Once again finding Noop paired with a non-human counterpart, Protect Me isn’t a tale of falsified friendship but rather one of conflict. Adorned in the sacred mongkol headdress and luck-granting prajoiyud arm bands, Noop is attired as a muay Thai fighter. Also known as Thai boxing, a precursor of modern kickboxing, its nicknamed “the art of eight limbs” due to its versatility, which has made it popular for mixed martial arts fighters to train in. Seen in films like Bloodsport and Ong-Bak, muay Thai is a full contact combat sport that is particularly tough on the body, most professional boxers in Thailand having relatively short careers in the ring.
Of course, not as short as Noop’s opponent would historically expect. Its form evoking thoughts of cockfighting, a blood sport that typically results in extreme physical trauma and even death for the roosters involved, this character is appropriately named Kai, the Thai word for chicken. And I love how this color scheme’s painted spurs elude to the metal ones sometimes affixed to the combatants to increase their deadliness.
With both sculptures featuring a seamless flow between their stylized angular aspects and more fluid rounded areas, Noop and Kai are perfectly sized to be positioned uncomfortably close to one another. Creating an obvious commentary between these two brutal fighting styles, in typical Coarse fashion this set includes a short story that illuminates on their intent. Printed on the underside of the box’s lid, one line that I find especially of note is how “He has been in the darkness so long, he no longer remembers what he is, bird or man”.

Editions of Protect Me [show]

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