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"Deep Impressions: Willie Cole Works on Paper" Members' Opening Reception 

When: Fri., Feb. 11, 6-8 p.m. 2011
Willie Cole's touch can be light, but his playful surfaces are matched by the artist's deep connection to his lifelong home in New Jersey and by an even deeper connection to his family's history and the African-American experience. "Deep Impressions" is the perfect name for an exhibition of Cole's works on paper, which opens at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art this weekend following a gallery talk by the artist.

Cole built his reputation as a sculptor and an assemblage artist who transforms objects such as hair dryers and high-heel shoes into striking African masks. As Brooks chief curator Marina Pacini has noted, Cole's works on paper are a natural two-dimensional extension of the artist's sculptures, with an emphasis on "repetition, appropriation, and transformation." In lighter moments, the stenciled or scorched image of a steam iron -- practically Cole's signature -- becomes colorful petals on a flower. The same shape, in more serious and introspective moments, is recast as tribal scarification on a warrior's face, a shield, a mask, or armor.

In one of his best-known works, Stowage, irons and ironing boards are used to evoke the image of a slave ship and a diagram for how to store the human cargo.

"Deep Impressions" features posters, paintings, photographs, and digital prints. The best work transforms American industrial detritus into exotic African artifacts, while ink drawings of bluesmen on their knees and lascivios women in burning beds find the insightful, often elusive artist darning some otherwise threadbare subjects. -- By Chris Davis


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