Dave Cole, Song-Books of The War, 2012. Mixed media, wheelchair, and 20,000 buffalo nickels, 49.75 x 26 x 43 in.

Dave Cole

New York


On first seeing Dave Cole’s recent exhibition, I was struck by the animatronic and craft features in its main attraction, The Music Box, a 13-ton asphalt compactor reconstructed into a working music box that plays “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The bumper is crafted from cherry wood, and, on closer inspection, some of the machine’s other parts have been meticulously reproduced to permit its dismantling and functioning as an art object. Another labor-intensive work consisted of a hand-sewn American flag, made of lead yet detailed with the wrinkles and stitches of cloth. Cole’s flags vary in size from monumental to small, but they all use the government-issue scale template. Nearby, a Singer sewing machine seemed to be searching the Internet for the key to its operating system, its needle printing a coded message on a spool of ticker tape. Cole’s work deploys highly charged—and transformed—symbols. On second viewing, what stood out was Cole’s deep commitment to metaphors that, for him, embody Langston Hughes’s refrain for underserved populations: “I, too, sing America.” Cole seems to contrast industrial might, Fortune 500 companies, and American icons with various vulnerable symbols, from babies to veterans. …see the entire review in the print version of May’s Sculpture magazine.