Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Willie Cole in Seattle

The exhibition of the work of Willie Cole at the Frye Art Museum is a stunning installation by a major American artist. Cole's relationship to the masters of twentieth century sculpture and painting is obvious in every work. This postage stamp photograph of With a Heart of Gold, shoes, stone, wood screws, metal, staples and 85 x 16 (Alexander and Bonin Gallery) doesn't do him justice. His genius is overlapping many different meaning sfrom aesthetics to history to modernism, to found objects, to transformations, to spiritual, to everyday life, to Civil Rights, to racism, and as part of that mix, there are some intentional riffs and echoes of African sculpture.

Unfortunately at the Frye Art Museum they paired Cole in a conversation with a curator of African Art and tried to pigeon hole him in that one box. They basically primitivized him, rather than honoring him for the extraodinary artist he is. They further belabored the African theme with films on African art during his exhibition
His conversation was at the same time as a Friday night open house and held in a gallery, so it was impossible to hear. But when a food critic, who had top billing at 8PM came on, everyone was asked to be quiet. Let's see how many other ways can Seattle demonstrate its oblivious racism?

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