Willie Cole: Beauties
Willie Cole’s Beauties are haunting, full-scale prints made from crushed and hammered ironing boards, each named after a woman from the artist’s family and cultural history. Cole has used irons and ironing as central motifs in his work for 30 years, evoking everything from African masks to slave ship diagrams to the routines of domestic servitude. In this special installation, the gallery will be lined wall to wall with the Beauties. Standing silent—like sentinels, tombstones, shrouds, or windows—the prints will open a space for confronting anew the whole range of often contradictory energies running through them: resistance and oppression, beauty and violence, labor and forbearance.
Willie Cole is a world-renowned sculptor and printmaker best known for his transformative assemblages of such household objects as steam irons, shoes, and hair dryers. He describes himself as a “contemporary artist, perceptual engineer, ecological mechanic, transformer,” and his work releases the complex histories at the intersection of African American experience, consumer culture, domestic labor, and rituals of bodily transformation. Cole studied at the Boston University College of Fine Arts; the School of Visual Arts, in New York; and the Art Students League of New York. His honors include the David C. Driskell Prize, the Saint-Gaudens Fellowship, a Joan Mitchell Foundation grant, and an artist residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem. His work has been exhibited and collected by institutions around the world, including the Birmingham Museum of Art, the British Museum, the Miami Art Museum (now the Pérez Art Museum Miami), the Museum of Modern Art, the Newark Museum, and the Saint Louis Art Museum. He lives and works in Mine Hill, New Jersey.
Curated by Jennifer L. Roberts, Johnson-Kulukundis Family Faculty Director of the Arts at Harvard Radcliffe Institute and Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Produced by Meg Rotzel, arts program manager
Exhibition design by Joe Zane, gallery coordinator
Curatorial assistant, Rachel Vogel, doctoral candidate in the Department of History of Art + Architecture, Harvard University