Cole as printmaker
Imprinting an object on a malleable flat surface is the simplest way to transfer an image and constitutes the essence of printmaking. Cole discovered and manipulated printmaking in the course of his artmaking, and has expanded the boundaries of the medium to accommodate his creative fusion of materials and meaning. In the late 1980s he began imprinting hot irons in minimal rows, decorative patterns, and figurative shapes onto surfaces ranging from paper and canvas to mattress padding and plaster. Using heat as a kind of ink and an iron as a stamping device, he creates elaborate compositions out of repeated printed forms. The scorches from the surfaces of the irons take on masklike appearances while concurrently suggesting the African ritual of scarification. Cole has said that irons played a part in his own heritage, growing up in Newark with a grandmother and great-grandmother who worked as housekeepers and frequently asked him to repair their broken irons. He had at least fifteen broken irons with him when he moved into his studio in 1980.

Cole as printmaker
Domestic I.D., IV, 1992
Sunflower, 1994
Stowage, 1997
Cole working
Cole portrait
The artist working on the Domestic Shield series at his studio, Newark, New Jersey, 1991. Photos: Yoland Skeete

©1998 The Museum of Modern Art, New York