Willie Cole Presents 'THE B-SIDES: 1989-2022' at Kavi Gupta Gallery

On view in Chicago until January 27, 2024.

Art
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Rounding out the year, Chicago’s Kavi Gupta Gallery is showcasing a new solo exhibition by contemporary American artist and engineer, Willie Cole. Bypassing traditional painterly materials, Cole upcycles discarded objects destined for a junkyard to create readymade assemblage sculptures that comment on his personal experiences as well as harking to the history West African sculpture.

THE B-SIDES: 1989-2022 presents a series of sculptures made from repurposed musical instruments. The exhibition stems from a recent commission Cole created for the Kansas City International Airport terminal, in which the artist created 11 hanging birds made from saxophones. The title of the series, Ornithology, refers both to its literal definition as “the study of birds,” but also alluding to saxophonist Charlie Parker‘s (nicknamed Bird) use of a contrafact, where a musician overlays a new melody over a popular chord progression.

From water bottles to discarded high heels to ironing boards, Cole transmutes the stories of his inspirations by layering meaning into familiar and mundane objects. The show particularly emphasizes the dry iron, which Cole equates to the human condition — the energy emitted unravels beauty in the material being pressed, but if applied too long or roughly, leads to destruction.

“I’m creating art the same way the universe does,” muses Cole. “I use multiples of single objects. I’m taking a single cell and multiplying it. I work an object to the point where I’m gonna get one beat away from the living thing, and the art tells me when it’s there.”

The exhibition will be on view in Chicago until January 27, 2024.

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