African Soles


African Soles
Gallery 250 from April to July 2010
Willie Cole
American, born 1955


Willie Cole
Ann Klein with a Baby in Transit, 2009
Shoes, wires, washers, and screws
Gift of funds from the Brenden-Mann Foundation 2009.57

Influenced by African art, Willie Cole constructed this sculpture of mother and child from a stockpile of discarded high-heeled shoes. Cole has created similarly ironic artworks out of other used consumer objects, ranging from lawn jockeys and bicycle parts to salvaged irons and blow dryers. When reassembled by Cole, these cast-offs become potent objects that appear to issue from another time and place.

Ann Klein with a Baby in Transit takes its name from the American fashion designer’s label that appears inside two of the shoes. The rich black color and well-worn surfaces of the footwear evoke the beautiful patina of many African sculptures, such as those on view throughout these galleries.

The mother and child grouping is a regal but tender homage to African cultural traditions. The woman seated on a throne of shoes refers to royal maternity sculptures such as the seated Yombe mother and child in this gallery. Most African maternity sculptures celebrate fertility and abundance. Cole’s sculpture also represents abundance, but of a very material sort—the waste of American consumer culture.

Web site:

Artist in Residence: Willie Cole

Interloper – or Illuminator? You Tell Us.

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