Tony Cokes

born 1956, Richmond, VA
lives in Providence, RI

In his video work since the 1990s, Tony Cokes generates complex layers of meaning through the juxtaposition of basic elements such as language and sound. Typically he animates existing texts from disparate sources, including academic writing, popular news media, and even spoken or written “rants” by public figures, and sets these words to preexisting music. Although this format appears straightforward, the specific choices of text and music are often disjunctive and even contradictory, encouraging a deeper engagement with the material at hand. Cokes’s signature format belies a larger intention to tackle challenging social issues such as race, urban politics, musical histories, and community in multivocal, non-reductive ways. By building on the accessible materials of pop music and existing texts, Cokes creates experiences of reading and listening that remain within reach for many audiences.

Distributed across multiple FRONT 2022 sites, Cokes presents a new constellation of artworks that touch upon histories of artistic and musical production and their intersection with larger political questions.

Akron Art Museum, Firelands Association of the Visual Arts, Karamu House, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Transformer Station

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