Exhibition Object Label

In the Afflict the Comfortable exhibition, June 27 - October 4, 2015, Untitled (#6) was paired with the following words by Mary Gaitskill:

Last night, a man had called him an angel. He had put his thumb in the boy’s mouth so he could suck it. It had tasted metallic, salty and a little grainy. “Rafael,” said the man. “The funniest and friendliest of the angel flock.” They were in a place called The Red Spot, sitting at a red banquet (a lush seat, cracked and taped) that somebody else had just vacated. The table was strewn with smeared plates and dirty utensils, balled greasy napkins, bits of bun and untouched lumps of slaw. The waiters let them sit there anyway—it was packed and they let things go to hell this time of night. Next to them a man with huge denim thighs and an open hungering mouth, kissed a middle-aged woman with her skirt up around her waist and her skinny legs open under the table. She threw her head back and offered him her breasts, the pulpy lobes of her ears, the raised bones of her throat. His gobbling, kissing head came straight up out of his neck, to eat it all like a mouth coming out of a tree. Two fat grinning police with clubs and guns and black devices hanging off them looked on, swapping jokes with the bartender. One of them looked at the man fucking the boy’s mouth with his thumb; the man froze. But the police turned away to look at a young blond girl in a silver skirt, her pug nose red from cold. She yawned like a kitten and tossed back her green drink. A dog trotted through the crowd with affable death in its eyes and a rubber bone in its mouth. A song from the jukebox filled the room with mild sorrow and mild joy that evaporated in the air. “If we ever gonna survive we gonna hafta get—” the singer’s voice flew across the empty canyon of the song on stately wings. The boy tongued the man’s thumb and imagined a flying angel with pure black skin and electric blue eyes. It was not friendly in the usual sense of the word and it was not funny. It was terrifying and it was beautiful. It had nothing to do with the song, it had simply used its emptiness as a way to enter the human world. It was watching everyone in the room. It was sorting and weighing them, for punishments and also mercy. It was finding out how well they were being what they were meant to be, and it was pitying them because it knew in advance that they could not do it.

— Mary Gaitskill

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