New York

Willie Cole

Brooke Alexander

“Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it” was Jasper Johns’ characteristically poker-faced suggestion to young artists. If Willie Cole has taken this advice, he has also taken it to another level, fusing formal repetition with a critique of the repetitious drudgery that has too often remained the province of African-Americans since their forced immigration here almost four hundred years ago.

In these terms, the best works in the show are the 12 ironing boards Cole has seared with a variety of irons and leaned against the gallery wall. Entitled “Domestic Shield I-XII,” 1992, this series possesses an elegance of means that recalls an efficient, incisive solution to a problem in theoretical physics. A large part of the pleasure of such solutions stems from their simplicity. The patterns left by the hot irons work several transformations simultaneously. Most immediately,

Sign-in to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for artforum.com? Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the September 1992 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.