NIC CAVE’S ART IS SAVING US ALL
“My love, do you ever dream of, candy-coated raindrops? You’re the same, my candy rain!”
The song by Soul For Real popped into my head after attending the opening of Nick Cave: Forothermore at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Entering the exhibition was like entering Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, where things spun, twirled, glittered, mesmerized and hypnotized.
In this exhibition Cave’s signature Sound Suits — where art meets fashion, meets activism — had a sufficient ‘cat walk’ on which to strut. From his initial suit crafted from twigs he gathered while considering the apartheid tactics of the LA police in the Rodney King beating three decades ago, to the seven metallic suits in Speak Louder a decade later, a Cave Sound Suit is a joy to behold. The latter reminded me of a Motown singing group, about to twirl on que. In all Cave has created more than 500 suits and many of them are on display here.
His use of found objects is amazing, his southern sensibility certainly on display, with birds, rusted farm implements, and his so named “relics”, Black memorabilia first cast to denigrate and sublimate and recast by Cave to elevate. Severed doll heads hovered over by a predatory eagle like a malevolent mother filling them with discards and offal. The severed head of a screaming Black man lying on its side atop a pile of American flags. Here Cave, according to the exhibition overview, ‘explores the historically and culturally loaded symbolism of Black bodies and seeks to reclaim while displaying our generosity and service instead’.
His medium appears to be whatever catches his eye. Dominos, gramophones, fabric, ornaments, electric candles, dogs, cats, work gloves cast in resin that commemorate a friend lost to AIDS. One exhibit goer marveled that the discarded farm implements he fondly remembered from his childhood could be repurposed in such a way. That is the genius of Nick Cave.
Cave conjures a new version of the street hustler who opens his coat to reveal his stash of kitsch for sale. In this instance the debonair black trench opens to reveal a garment crafted of an eye-popping array of gold, silver and diamond watches and jewelry.
This first retrospective in the city where he built a life, a practice and a community is no less than a tour de force. And have no doubt that Cave isn’t resting on his laurels, as he also gives us a glimpse into his future. Cave’s approach to what monuments next hold court in the public square is understandably different. His Black bronze ‘Tree of Life’ features a seated figure from whose shoulders spring a foliage less tree full of avian life.
In an interview with Art Newspaper Cave says, “art has always been my saviour.” Well, after seeing this body of work it is clear his art is our saviour as well.
forOTHERMore runs through October 2. Coinciding with the MCA event is The Color Is, a collab with Nick’sartist and designer brother Jack at the Roundhouse at the DuSable Museum of African American History, a Smithsonian Affiliate.
It is a multimedia extravaganza combining original fashion design, dance choreography and performances. On Sunday, May 22 at 2 p.m. Nona Hendryx, of LaBelle fame and homegrown talent Jamila Woods will be in conversation with Vocalo’s Ayana Contreras at the Roundhouse. Get tickets here.