Iron scorch on wood, scorch on paper: Over the past thirty years, Willie Cole’s work with irons and ironing boards has summoned heat and steam to create imagery that draws on that of the slave trade and West African masks. His series “Beauties,” 2012, diverges from his scorch practice and emerges from pressured touch, as well as complexity’s accidents. The artist traces his printmaking genealogy to decades of domestic work over ironing boards. “Beauties” more specifically invokes black women, mothers and mothers dispossessed, from his great-grandmother’s generation: Anna Mae, Calpurnia, Queen, and Saphire are four of the twenty-eight prints. Black women have long been subject to yield to the submission demanded by law, the incursions of dominant touch. Cole’s series renders material the violence of this touch. He hammers ironing boards against the earth to thin the objects to a width of four centimeters. Cole and an ensemble of printmakers then ink the nearly pulverized, thin-shouldered forms and run them through the press.
Read the rest of the article.