Part Pop artist, part shaman, Willie Cole takes household objects and so charges them with danger and talismanic power, they become ego-shattering icons as well as riveting works of art. The artist's best-known work, Stowage, was showcased at Cole's 1998 solo show at the Museum of Modern Art. It also serves as the centerpiece for his Brooks exhibition, "Deep Impressions." A long, slim projectile covered with tiny white dots lies near the center of this nearly black woodcut. Surrounding the projectile are a series of circles, each imprinted with a single iron-scorch. As we step in closer to this wall-filling work, we realize we're looking at the layout of an overcrowded British slave ship ingeniously re-created with a blackened image of an ironing board and iron scorches. We're staring through the ship's portals into the stark lean faces of African tribesmen about to be sold into slavery.
At the edge of abstraction, Cole's iron-scorched paperwork Raid looks like rusted hulls of ships ramming into one another. Or these could be blood-stained spears flashing in combat. Its emotional energy feels as sudden, unexpected, up close and personal as the melees that occur when slave traders "raid" African villages.
The right panel of the triptych Man Spirit Mask contains another evocative image. For this work, a photo etching of the artist's face has been elongated, cropped, turned upside down, and jammed into the sole plate of a Proctor Silex steam iron. Like Stowage and Raid, this strikingly original and unsettling work is filled with seemingly endless asides about the callousness and cruelty that occur when humans are treated like chattel, jammed into cargo ships, and consigned to the drudgery of planting/harvesting/hauling cotton and cooking/cleaning/ironing.
Through May 8th
You'll find powerful portraits of architectural facades as well as faces in David Lusk's current show, "Jared Small: Small World." Over a Cup explores the boundary between the everyday and the sublime and finds transcendence in unexpected places. Dressed in his Sunday-best white shirt and suspenders, an older man sits in a small, clean, well-worn kitchen. The Hopperesque square of light shining through the window and framing his face suggests this is a holy place where a senior sips coffee and reflects on a hard but honest life.
Small's portrait Lena stands on its own as a moving character study as well as serving as part of a large mural depicting another biblical parable the Good Samaritan. As Lena turns on her fine black leather heels to walk away, she looks back at an injured person who lies just outside the picture plane. She doesn't see the storm clouds racing across the sky, a building fraying/dripping/dissolving, or the pitch-black shadow hovering close to this beautiful, oh-so-busy young professional who serves as poignant reminder that everyone's place in the world, sooner or later, comes undone; that all of us eventually will need a helping hand.
In a Row takes us from radiance to decay to total dissolution. Though the wooden frames of three shotgun houses are worn, the middle home's lemon-yellow paint job is breathtakingly beautiful in sunlight. The cement walkways at the bottom of the painting liquefy and spill into what looks like a chasm. In light of recent earthquakes, tsunamis, and threats of nuclear meltdown, Small's beautiful, ephemeral worlds feel more visionary than surreal.
Through April 30th
Sculptor and painter Anton Weiss witnessed World War II, spent his childhood in a concentration camp, and, after the war, relocated to the United States, where he studied Abstract Expressionism with Hans Hofmann. In his L Ross exhibition "Remnants," Weiss' life comes full circle as he captures the chaos and the potential for change that occurs when citizens of the world rise up against tyranny.
Weiss takes the long view — planets float in deep space, and loosely knit, irregular rectangles look like city-states coalescing and decaying, like civilization rising and falling. Weiss weds the inventive shapes of Abstract Expressionism with Surrealism's cosmic mystery with Dada's absurdist humor and anti-war sentiment. At the top of Remnants 003, a half-moon cradles a dwarf sun. Near the center of the work, several hammered, weathered metal strips resemble a military jacket — torn in two, brown with age, and stripped of all indices of rank.
After the war, Weiss vowed to stay away from the dark side. And so throughout his career he refused to paint black or nearly black works of art. In what Weiss describes as a "personal as well as aesthetic breakthrough," the artist has created works that while very dark are also some of the most insightful and life-affirming pieces in the show. Measuring 48-by-24 inches, Remnants 007 feels figurative, personal. The work's deep charcoal grays conjure up soot generated by industry or artillery fire, or, perhaps, this is the dark night of the soul.
In Weiss' layered and scumbled acrylic surfaces and in his hammered and weathered metal fragments, you'll glimpse shadows of the psyche, foibles of the human heart, and nearly indecipherable scripts that read like hieroglyphs in an ancient tomb or fingernail scratches on a prison wall.
Through April 30th