The Amistad Center for Art & Culture Presents "Digging Deeper"
Artists Willie Cole and Hank Willis Thomas to curate Amistad Center’s historical collection
and present new works inspired by collection materials
HARTFORD, Conn., — A new collaborative exhibition featuring the works of Willie Cole
and Hank Willis Thomas, entitled Digging Deeper, will open this fall at The Amistad Center for Art &
Culture. Both Cole and Thomas were invited to explore The Amistad Center’s extensive collection of art,
artifacts, and archives which document the African American experience and respond with new works
inspired by this rich source material. The show will also include additional objects from The Amistad
Center’s collection to highlight the common threads between historical characterizations of race and presentday
conceptions of African American culture. Digging Deeper is on view from September 19, 2009 through
April 4, 2010 at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, home of the Amistad Center for Art & Culture.
Cole and Thomas are both known for their transformation and reinterpretation of identifiable objects into
works of art, many of which reference race and socio-cultural issues. Cole is best known for his use of irons
and ironing boards to create images of slave ships and African masks. His work often references his family’s
history as domestic workers and their roots in Africa. For Digging Deeper, he created several new pieces
including a video piece entitled Remembering Mammy, which references the place of the mammy figure in
historic and contemporary culture.
Thomas recently gained notoriety for his photographic works, which provide commentary on branding and
consumer culture and often re-appropriate advertisements and other instantly recognizable symbols to suggest
the exploitation and commoditization of African American culture. Thomas’ work for Digging Deeper
includes a large scale mixed media installation entitled Greetings from the Sunny South, which is a house-like
structure that incorporates more than 500 post cards from The Amistad Center's collection. The post cards
depict stereotypical imagery as well as personal photographs that were adapted to post card form.
The artists also created two cabinets of curiosity inspired by pieces from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum
of Art – where The Amistad Center is housed. One cabinet, titled “Curious objects from the demise of a
peculiar institution,” holds objects from The Amistad Center’s collection including advertisements, product
packages, and other objects of ephemera that seem immediately offensive to today’s viewers, but were once
readily accepted by society. The other cabinet, called “Curious objects from the now yet to be understood,”
includes objects contributed by both Cole and Thomas that are unproblematic today, but may be questioned
by future generations.
A high-quality catalog will accompany the exhibition. There will be an audio guide available via cell phone
at no additional charge. Major support for this exhibition is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for
the Visual Arts, with additional support from the Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation and the
Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism. Educational materials and programs are sponsored by the
Founded in 1987, The Amistad Center for Art & Culture is a not-for-profit cultural arts organization housed
at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut—the nation’s first public art museum
and the first major museum in the region to house a gallery devoted to displaying African American culture.
For more information about The Amistad Center visit www.amistadartandculture.org.
The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is located at 600 Main St. in Hartford, Connecticut. The Museum
is open Wednesdays to Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please visit
www.wadsworthatheneum.org for more information.
Kimberly Reynolds Sascha Freudenheim / Molly Kurzius
Director, PR & Marketing Resnicow Schroeder Associates
860-838-4055 212-671-5172 / 5163