Not to be confused with the Australian singer/songwriter of the same name, Nick Cave the artist trained as a dancer with Alvin Ailey and is a professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He’s best-known for his wearable fabric sculptures that he calls Soundsuits. But Until, his immense, immersive new installation at MASS MoCA takes his creativity to a whole new level. The sheer volume of material that has been gathered is astounding: 16,000 wind-spinners; millions of plastic pony beads; thousands of ceramic birds, fruits and animals; 13 gilded pigs; more than ten miles of crystals; 24 chandeliers; one crocodile; and 17 cast-iron lawn jockeys. The myriad objects in this paradise of kitsch are deliberately positioned to make the viewer feel culpable, vulnerable and potentially under attack.
The presence of the blackface jockeys – once a common front-yard artifact in Jim Crow America – is meaningful. Cave’s first Soundsuit, made out of twigs, was a direct response to the Rodney King beating: a visual image about social justice that was both brutal and empowering. The death of black men such as Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown drives his new imagery. Until is a play on the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” (or in this case, “guilty until proven innocent”), and the artwork is meant to address issues of gun violence, gun control policy, race relations and gender politics in America today. “I had been thinking about gun violence and racism colliding,” Cave recently told The New York Times. “And then I wondered: ‘Is there racism in Heaven?’ That’s how this piece came about.”
“I view this work as an elaborate community forum, as much as a work of sculpture,” Cave has said. As such, the gallery will double as a stage for internationally known dancers, singer/songwriters, pop artists, poets and composers, together with panel discussions, community forums and other forms of creative public debate and engagement. Iconic choreographer Bill T. Jones and dancer Okwui Okpokwasili will each present site-specific dance in the gallery this spring.
While you’re experiencing this destined-to-be-much-talked-about installation, which will be up until August, check out the other exhibitions currently on view at MASS MoCA: “Free Roses” by Alex Da Corte, closing January 16; Sarah Crowner’s “Beetle in the Leaves,” through February 12; “Explode Every Day: An Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder,” through March 19; Julianne Swartz’s In Harmonicity: The Tonal Walkway; Barbara Takenaga’s Nebraska; “A Wall Drawing Retrospective” by Sol LeWitt; and in the Kidspace, Federico Uribe’s “Here Comes the Sun.” The seasonal Anselm Kiefer exhibition reopens in May.
Located at 1040 MASS MoCA Way in North Adams, Massachusetts, MASS MoCA is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays. Admission costs $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and veterans, $12 for students with ID, $8 for kids aged 6 to 16 and is free for kids aged 5 and younger and for museum members. For more info, visit https://massmoca.org.