Collection Artwork
Willie Cole (born Somerville, New Jersey, 1955)
To get to the other side
32 cast-concrete lawn jockeys and mixed media, galvanized steel, wood
installed size: 32 1/2 x 198 x 198 in.
approximate size, each figure: 26 1/4 x 17 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.
each tile size: 24 x 24 in.
single cedar rail: 4 x 4 x 197 7/8 in.
single cedar rail: 4 x 4 x 198 in.
single cedar rail: 4 x 4 x 198 1/8 in.
single cedar rail: 4 x 4 x 198 in.
Gift of Peter Norton

Installation views

Object Label

Standing in a posture of servitude, the caricatured black lawn jockey reflects Jim Crow–era white racism. However, Willie Cole has reimagined it in a posture of strength and combat. “Chess is a game of war,” the artist says, and “To get to the other side is a battlefield.” The figures are embellished with knives, bags, neckties, beads, and other adornment to reflect both their roles on the chessboard and African symbolism. In the artist’s rendering, each lawn jockey is a stand-in for the Yoruba god Elegba, a gatekeeper who represents games and chance. To reach higher gods, or orishas, one must first seek approval from Elegba.

If getting to the other side means attaining a higher spiritual realm, what stakes are at play in the jockeys’ battle? What happens to the jockey, or any object, when reconstituted with new meaning? What happens to its old meanings and the sides on which it used to play?

From the exhibition: Other Side:
Art, Object, Self (August 12, 2017 – January 3, 2018)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.
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