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Willie Cole grew up in Newark, New Jersey. He attended the Boston University School of Fine Arts, received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1976, and continued his studies at the Art Students League of New York from 1976 to 1979. Cole is best known for assembling and transforming ordinary domestic and used objects such as irons, ironing boards, high-heeled shoes, hair dryers, bicycle parts, wooden matches, lawn jockeys, and other discarded appliances and hardware, into imaginative and powerful works of art and installations. Through the repetitive use of single objects in multiples, Cole's assembled sculptures acquire a transcending and renewed metaphorical meaning, or become a critique of our consumer culture. Cole's work is generally discussed in the context of postmodern eclecticism, combining references and appropriation ranging from African and African-American imagery, to Dada's readymades and Surrealism’s transformed objects, and icons of American pop culture or African and Asian masks, into highly original and witty assemblages. Some of Cole's interactive installations also draw on simple game board structures that include the element of chance while physically engaging the viewer. Cole's widely recurring symbolic and artistic object that was initially brought to the attention of the art world in the mid-1980s has been the steam iron. While Cole's unique approach of imprinting the steam iron’s marks on a variety of media result in a wide-ranging decorative potential of his scorchings, these scorches are also to be viewed as a reference to Cole's African-American heritage. Willie Cole's work has been the subject of several one-person museum exhibitions: Montclair Art Museum (2006), University of Wyoming Art Museum (2006), the Tampa Museum of Art (2004), Miami Art Museum (2001), Bronx Museum of the Arts (2001) and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1998). Several of his sculptures were included in "Reconfiguring an African Icon: Odes to the Mask by Modern and Contemporary Artists from Three Continents," which opened in March 2011 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In 2010, a survey exhibition of his work on paper (1975-2010) took place at the James Gallery of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and later travelled to the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, the Sarah Moody Gallery of Art at the University of Alabama and the Rowan University Art Gallery in Glassboro, NJ. In January 2013, Complex Conversations: Willie Cole Sculptures and Wall Works opened at Albertine Monroe-Brown Gallery at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. The exhibition will then travel to the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro.