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Willie Cole


Not on view



Woodcut and relief

Sheet (Irregular): 55 1/2 × 104 5/8in. (141 × 265.7 cm) Image: 95 × 49 1/2in. (241.3 × 125.7 cm)

Accession number

11/16 | 2 APs, 2 PPs, 1 BAT

Printed by Derrière l'Étoile Studios; published by Alexander and Bonin Publishing, Inc.

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Print Committee

Rights and reproductions
© artist or artist’s estate

Stowage is an unusual variant on the woodblock print, which Willie Cole created by embedding an ironing board and the soleplates of twelve irons into an expanse of plywood, forcing the objects down until they were flush with the surface and then applying ink to the whole. To Cole, the various images formed by the base of the irons suggest the distinctive markings associated with different African tribes, and the perforated metal ironing board evoke nineteenth-century illustrations of slave trading that show Africans stowed on ships like so much cargo. As well as the reference to a physical voyage, the print alludes to a cultural one. Cole believes that “when one culture is dominated by another culture, the energy, or powers, or gods of the previous culture hide in vehicles in the new culture.” He suggests, in Stowage, that African spirituality still inhabits the domestic tools used by slaves and their descendants in America—that the brutal crossing did not sever an essential kinship to the ancestral homeland.