Complex Conversations: Willie Cole Sculptures and Wall Works

  • Sep 14, 2013 – Dec 15, 2013
  • The Bob & Lissa Shelley McDowell Gallery
Willie Cole, "Wind Mask", 1991, assemblage with hairdryers, 20 1/2 x 19 x
10 in. Courtesy of Alexander and Bonin Gallery, New York, NY.

Complex Conversations: Willie Cole covers more than thirty years of the artist's work, from three-dimensional sculpture to drawing and printmaking. The exhibition establishes thematic consistencies and intense interactions of his art and its focus on key consumer objects like hairdryers, high heel shoes, and, above all, the steam iron. In Cole’s deft hands and multileveled sensibility, his art connects the personal and the spiritual, everyday consumer objects and multi-layered metaphor, and African-American and US history and reality within a global perspective. 

Cole sees himself as an “urban archaeologist.” His work derives from his fusion of reductive and Pop Art sources, and its draws from traditional African art to create provocative works in many media. Best known for his found-object sculptures, he also makes drawings, paintings, and prints. Cole’s art transforms everyday mass-produced objects into personal icons or symbolic representations that explore ideas of diversity, identity, and a consumer-based society. 

Willie Cole (b. 1955, Newark, NJ) attended the Boston University School of Fine Arts, and received his BFA degree from the School of the Visual Arts in New York in 1976. He continued his studies at the Art Students League of New York Art from 1976-79. Recent solo exhibitions include James Gallery of the City University of New York; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art; and Rowan University Art Gallery. A retrospective exhibition, Anxious Objects: Willie Cole's Favorite Brands, was organized by the Montclair Art Museum in 2006 and traveled nationally. Cole is the recipient of many awards, including the David C. Driskell Prize in 2006, the first national award to honor and celebrate contributions to the field of African American art and art history established by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Cole is represented by Alexander and Bonin, New York.

Complex Conversations: Willie Cole Sculptures and Wall Works is organized by the James W. & Lois I. Richmond Center for Visual Arts (RCVA) at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo. Patterson Sims, Curator.

Related programs

Artist Talk & Reception • Fri Sept 27 @ 5:30pm

Educators Workshop with Willie Cole • Sat Sept 28 @ 10am

Noon @ the 'Spoon • Tue Oct 9 @ 12pm

Fall Family Day • Sat Oct 19 @ 1pm

Noon @ the 'Spoon POV • Tue Oct 22 @ 12pm

Curator Talk: Patterson Sims • Sun Nov 24 @ 2pm

New! Sunday Public Tours • Every Sunday until Dec 15 @ 2pm (No tour Dec 1)

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