|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Ernest Cox was born in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1937. He received a B.A. in Fine Arts at the College of William and Mary in 1959, and an M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1961. Postgraduate study (Philosophy) at Michigan State University, 1961.|
His professional background includes Sculptor/Designer, General Motors Styling Division Experimental Program, 1960; Art Instructor, the Duval County School System and the Jacksonville Art Museum, 1961-62; Faculty member and Professor of Art, University of South Florida, 1962-1991, where he also served as Chairman of the Art Department, 1971-73. He was designated Professor Emeritus in 1993.
Just prior to, and during his tenure at the University of South Florida, Cox participated in well over one hundred juried and invitational exhibitions throughout the East and Southeast, including solo gallery shows in New York, Atlanta, Jacksonville and Tampa. His work has been shown in group exhibitions at a number of museums, including the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, the North Carolina Museum of Fine Arts, the Mint Museum, Jacksonville Art Museum, the Tampa Art Museum, the High Museum of Art, Norton Gallery, the Ringling Museum of Art, and others. His work has been seen in solo shows at the Jacksonville Art Museum, and the Academy Art Museum in Easton, Maryland.
He has received a number of awards for his sculpture, including first prize in the 1965 Florida State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition, Tampa, and first (purchase) prize in the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce's Invitational Southeast Sculpture Competition (1969). Grants have been awarded by the Fine Arts Council of Florida (two Individual Artist Fellowships) and by the University of South Florida (including a Faculty Development Leave, a Sponsored Research Award and an Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award). Cox is represented in a number of corporate and public collections, including the First National Bank of Atlanta, the Gulfcoast Museum of Art, the St. Petersburg, Florida Public Library, the Corporate Headquarters of the F.D.I.C., the Gulf Life Insurance Company, and the First National Bank of Tampa, as well as in numerous private collections.
Retired from teaching in 1991, Cox and his wife Barbara live in Maryland, where he continues to work, but exhibits infrequently. A solo show at the Academy of Art Museum in Easton , Maryland in 1997 was later followed by the Museum's acquisition of three new works (2009).
I was drawn into art as a student, in the 1950s, by the pull of abstract
expressionism. Although painters ruled the day, it turned out that I
had a stronger affinity for sculpture. While I did some figure work, my
real interest was in abstraction, and the potential of actual mass in
space to achieve the same kind of energy and spontaneity a lot of
painting had. Prior to 1970, metals were my materials of choice --
particularly welded steel, with its seductive variability of properties.
Cast bronze came a close second for its ability to take almost any
shape. I was drawn intuitively to a fusion of natural and mechanistic
form. In time, found parts supplied most of the latter. These had the
disconcerting habit of suggesting 'readable' references to the culture,
however. I made an effort (through choice and alteration) to use parts
whose identities were unlikely to interfere with the pure formal
character I was looking for.
During the mid and late sixties we
began to see profound changes in the cultural atmosphere. I had been
interested in the psychology of human behavior (and more generally,
ontology) for some years, and here were events which intensified those
interests. I decided to expand my work to include them. By then, of
course, I would hardly be alone in bringing other content to
aesthetically-oriented work, but I had plenty to think about in
developing my own approach.
My first experiments in this new
direction resulted in a series of thirty six wall sculptures I called
"slabs". These were steel, rectilinear in shape, and roughly twenty four
inches by twelve, by four inches in depth. My intent was to use the
potential of those bits and pieces I had avoided before to create
metaphorical work (with varying degrees of cultural, and the odd
universal, reference) without letting go of the visual qualities I was
after in my strictly abstract work. Later and current pieces have left
this format, but except for an occasional freestanding sculpture, I
continue to use walls for the neutral ground they provide. These newer
sculptures are also made of a greater variety of materials. They are
typically larger, but most have retained a generally symmetrical
composition, with discrete elements pulled into interaction by
When I'm asked about specific meaning in a particular
piece, I'm faced with a dilemma common to artists whose work deals with
metaphor or obscured reference. Explanations have the potential to cause
mischief on a couple of fronts. Where the art embraces the broad
ambiguities and paradoxes of life itself, its meanings may be various
and ambivalent enough to make exposition a daunting task. Where the
focus is narrow, translation still risks disarming the work, robbing it
of crucial nuance. The art is about possibilities -- carried by the
elements in it. These offer complex, and sometimes conflicting leads,
but they come out of a time and place -- a cultural context -- which
provides a lot of common experience, and in the process, access. My
hope is to entice (or maybe provoke) the viewer into a dialog which is
as rich as the one I experience in wrestling the work into being. That
experience will certainly differ, depending on what we each bring to it,
but neither of us has to worry about a 'correct' reading. I'm certainly
less interested in an elusive truth than in the human dance around it.
Website of the Artist
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