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Willie Cole
Mine Hill, NJ
Printmaking, Sculpture

Artwork Details


Willie Cole was born in New Jersey in 1955.  In 1976, he received a BFA from The School of Visual Arts in NYC and later studied at The Art Students League in NYC.  Cole has been an artist-in-residence at Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle, The Contemporary in Baltimore, Capp Street Project in San Francisco, and between 1988 and 1989, at The Studio Museum in Harlem.  He is also the recipient of various awards, grants, and fellowships.

Cole employs themes and recurring interests in his work.  Some of these works are based on the form of an iron, an image which he began investigating in 1989.  Cole was first attracted to the iron for both its form and for its perceived embodiment of the spirit of the person who used the iron.  He has constructed enlarged versions, 600 times the actual size of an iron, made from diverse materials both found, such as banisters and pullies, and constructed or carved, such as two egg-beaters that resemble African sculpture and which were carved out of two large sections of porch post. 

Of Cole’s work, Wendy Weitman, Associate Curator at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, states: “Willie Cole constructs his assemblage sculptures from found domestic objects and imbues them with spiritual, and often mythical, power through allusion and metaphor.  Cole first assembled used irons into iconic figurative forms reminiscent of African Art… Later, he began appreciating the beauty of the iron surfaces, and discovered that every brand of iron had a different face…Cole has employed the iron within the printmaking medium of woodcut. Cole uses the branding process to draw out what he calls the spirit in the object. The smell, the texture, and the searing physical act all contribute aspects of meaning to his unique approach to imprinting an image."

His work has been featured in the group exhibitions Biennial for Public Art at the Neuberger Museum, Purchase and Performance Anxiety organized by MCA in Chicago, and at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego.  His first solo exhibition was in Europe at the Galerie Almine Rech in Paris.  Cole's Sculptures are included in permanent museum collections in Chicago, Dallas, Newark, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Stanford.