UAB’s AEIVA presents “Willie Cole: Transformations” from June 5-Aug. 8

“Transformations” is part of a three-exhibition celebration by AEIVA, Celebrating the Human Spirit: 50 Years After the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

willie cole streamWillie Cole, "Tricksters Among Us (Seen and Unseen)," 2012, iron scorches and acrylic on wood, 40.5 by 51 inches, image courtesy of the artist and beta pictoris galleryWorks by noted American artist Willie Cole will be on exhibition from June 5-Aug. 8, presented by the University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Arts and SciencesAbroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts.

Cole is recognized among other artists of his generation for his potent and poetic sculptures, compositions and installations. “Willie Cole: Transformations” will showcase 15 works created between 1996 and 2015. The exhibition investigates the artist’s transformation of everyday objects, ready-mades and throwaways into works of multilayered autobiographical, art historical and sociopolitical meaning. Featuring items as varied as shoes, irons, bicycles and water bottles, Cole’s work alludes to social, cultural, political and spiritual meanings while referencing the artist’s own African-American culture, heritage and history.

The exhibition will feature works drawn from Birmingham collections and will also include the artist’s large-scale work “Red Spirit Light,” a suspended chandelier-like form created from red water bottles. “Red Spirit Light” evokes the psychological and spiritual force of light and the color red, while also commenting on our throwaway culture of ever-proliferating plastic discards, says AEIVA Director Lisa Tamiris Becker, who curated the exhibition.

“In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the exhibition also includes the artist’s works ‘Birmingham Rattle Snake’ and ‘Civil Constrictor,’ composed of painted text on vintage fire hoses, which refer to the civil rights struggles in Birmingham,” Becker said.  

willie coloe red spirit"Red Spirit Light " 2013, plastic bottles, galvanized steel and cellophane, 75 1/2 x 72 in diameter/192 x 183 cm diameter, photo by Joerg Lohse courtesy Alexander and Bonin, New YorkCole will speak about his work at a public lecture, 4:30 p.m. Friday, June 5, in the AEIVA’s Hess Lecture Hall. A free opening reception will take place from 6-8 p.m. that evening at AEIVA, 1221 10th Ave. South. Admission to AEIVA is always free. AEIVA is open to the public 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 12-6 p.m. Saturday and is closed Sundays and holidays. Call 205-975-6436 or visit AEIVA online.

Cole’s work is found in public and private collections, including the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City; Buffalo, New York’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery; Birmingham Museum of Arts; Atlanta’s High Museum of Art; and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Cole grew up in Newark, New Jersey. In 2006, he won the David C. Driskell Prize, the first national award to honor and celebrate contributions to the field of African-American art and art history, established by the High Museum. Alexander and Bonin Gallery in New York and Guido Maus, beta pictoris gallery/Maus Contemporary in Birmingham represent Cole.

Along with the Cole exhibition, AEIVA will present two more featured exhibitions as part of Celebrating the Human Spirit: 50 Years After the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The first is “The Freedom Exhibition: Two Countries One Struggle,” which focuses on the comparative civil rights photography of Spider Martin and Peter Magubane, and explores images of American segregation and South African apartheid. “The Freedom Exhibition” is sponsored by Mayor William A. Bell Sr. and the City of Birmingham and is curated by Renee Kemp-Rotan, Mayor’s Office of Special Projects. The exhibition is presented in collaboration with the UAB Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts, College of Arts and Sciences.

The second is “Focus I: Identified,” selected works from the collection of Jim Sokol and Lydia Cheney. The show is curated by John Fields.