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Untitled Skull (II)

Willie Cole (b. 1955) Untitled Skull (II), 1992 Protor Silex Iron with rope 4 1/2 × 9 × 6 1/4 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem; gift of Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg 2016.45

In this early work within Willie Cole’s long-term generative exploration of the steam iron, the domestic object is reassembled and positioned as a human skull. Cole has referred to himself as a “perceptual engineer” because he changes the way people see everyday items. For the artist, this change in perception allows the objects to reveal layers of historical and cultural references. The iron, which is directly tied to physical domestic labor, can stand for the generations of exploited laborers.