Vision & Spirit curator, Dexter Wimberly, speaks with Willie Cole, a multidisciplinary artist from the exhibition, about his process.

In this month’s Open Air, curator for the Gantt Center Dexter Wimberly speaks with multidisciplinary artist Willie Cole, whose work is featured in one of our current exhibits, Vision & Spirit: African American Art | Works From The Bank Of America Collection.

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Open Air is a monthly series of virtual studio visits and intimate conversations with Black contemporary artists across the United States. Join us as we get a behind-the-scenes look at exciting new art as it’s being created while connecting particular works to some of the most pressing issues of our times. Historically, African-American artists have been compelled to make their own way within the art world, challenging traditional ideas of cultural representation and creating their own systems of merit, criticality, and reward outside of the mainstream.


Willie Cole (b. 1955 in Somerville, New Jersey) lives and works in New Jersey. His work has been the subject of several one-person museum exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1998), Bronx Museum of the Arts (2001), Miami Art Museum (2001), Tampa Museum of Art (2004), University of Wyoming Art Museum (2006), Montclair Art Museum (2006), College of Wooster Art Museum (2013-14).

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 traveled to Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Sarah Moody Gallery of Art, University of Alabama and Rowan University Art Gallery, New Jersey.

Several of his sculptures were included in “Reconfiguring an African Icon: Odes to the Mask by Modern and Contemporary Artists from Three Continents” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (2011). In 2013, a traveling exhibition “Complex Conversations: Willie Cole Sculptures and Wall Works” opened at Albertine Monroe-Brown Gallery at Western Michigan University.

In 2015, Cole’s work was included in “Represent: 200 Years of African American Art” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and “Wild Noise: Artwork from the Bronx Museum of the Arts” at El Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana. In 2016, his work was included in “Disguise: Masks and Global African Art” at the Brooklyn Museum.

“Willie Cole: On-Site” opened at the David C. Driskell Center, University of Maryland and traveled to the Museum of Art at the University of New Hampshire, and Arthur Ross Gallery, Philadelphia in 2016. The following year, Cole had solo exhibitions at the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame and at the College of Architecture and Design Gallery at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. In 2019, “Willie Cole: Beauties” opened at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University as well as “Willie Cole: Bella Figura” at Alexander and Bonin, New York.


Dexter Wimberly is an independent curator and entrepreneur who has organized exhibitions and developed programs with galleries and institutions throughout the world, including The Third Line in Dubai, Koki Arts in Tokyo, and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. His exhibitions have been reviewed and featured in publications including the New York Times, Artforum, and Hyperallergic.

Wimberly has also served as Director of Strategic Planning at Independent Curators International in New York City. Prior to his curatorial career, Wimberly was the managing partner and CEO of August Bishop advertising agency, representing a diverse array of clients including Adidas, The Coca-Cola Company, and HBO. In 2018, Wimberly founded ART WORLD CONFERENCE, a professional development company for visual artists and arts professionals, and serves as its CEO.


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