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Anxious Objects:
Willie Cole's Favorite Brands

Frye Art Museum
Seattle WA – Jun 23-Sep 3, 2007

Willie Cole - Wind Mask East
Willie Cole, Wind Mask East (1990), blow dryers [Frye Art Museum, Seattle WA, Jun 23-Sept 3]

Anxious Objects: Willie Cole’s Favorite Brands is a traveling mid-career retrospective and the first survey of Willie Cole’s mature work. Cole is known for assemblages that convert throwaway consumer objects into powerfully charged cross-cultural icons. The artworks represent intersections of spirituality, racial identity and Western  materialism. At the same time, they reference Pop art and add to the trajectory of found object art made infamous by Picasso’s bull head and Duchamp’s toilet.

Willie Cole - High Security Jacket for Executives Only
Willie Cole, High Security Jacket for Executives Only (1988), woven steel and found metal object [Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA, Jun 23-Sept 3]

Full of witty dualities and metaphoric juxtapositions, the pieces created between 1988-2006 are about transformation. Bicycle parts, women’s high heel shoes, hairdryers and other post-consumer artefacts are the building blocks of the sculptures. The use of ordinary objects to create new sculptural forms presents the connundrum of consumer excess in North America and a reinterpretation of African cultural traditions, world religious beliefs, political values and how these ideologies are perceived through the contemporary urban experience.

Cole’s artworks are, in part, motivated by his unique cultural and personal perspective. Initially, he found inspiration in the streets of industrial Newark, New Jersey where, raised in a female-dominated household, Cole remembers repairing irons for his mother and grandmother. Now irons are the most common thread in Cole’s work. In his two-dimensional pieces, Cole uses scorch marks from a hot iron to create mask and shield impressions, self-portraits, references to ritual scarification and patterns that resemble African fabrics.


Allyn Cantor

Willie Cole - G.E. Mask and Scarification
Willie Cole, G.E. Mask and Scarification (1998), 2 panels sandblasted glass with wood [Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA, Jun 23-Sept 3]

 Wed, Jun 6, 2007