/An artist with a civic responsibility’ Nick Cave exhibition at Mississippi Museum of Art through Feb 16

An artist with a civic responsibility’ Nick Cave exhibition at Mississippi Museum of Art through Feb 16

“Nick Cave: Feast” at the Mississippi Museum of Art from February 16 through February 16 features 17 works by the Chicago-based contemporary artists. For a broad overview and immersive introduction to Cave’s work and the materials he uses, including buttons, beads and bamboo, as well as his installations and baskets, this survey includes video, sculpture and installations. The New York Times Style Magazine recently named Cave one of “The Greats”, a talented individual who has mastered his craft and made a difference in the field as well as the culture. He says that the recognition has made him feel humbled and happy as an artist who views himself as a messenger, artist, and teacher first. Fame is not the goal. Cave states that he has never allowed such exposure to interfere with my actual work. Cave says, “I’m an artist with civic responsibility.” Cave’s most well-known creation is the Soundsuit. Ten of them are on display at the exhibition’s beginning. The effect of the Button Walls, gallery walls that are covered in black fabric and thousands upon thousands of buttons, is part starry sky and part space for contemplation of the stunning collection. His first Soundsuit was created in response to Rodney King’s 1991 beating by Los Angeles police officers. Cave was dealing with concerns about profiling, and feeling discarded. A twig he found on the ground became a collection, which was then made into a sculpture. He said that he didn’t realize he was creating something wearable until he put it on. It made a loud sound, which led to the idea of protest. “To be heard you have to talk about it.” These human-shaped, often wearable sculptures create a suit that makes race, gender, and identity virtually indistinguishable. Cave explains the inspiration behind his creations, saying that Rodney King, Trayvon Martin and many others are involved. “I’m glad that I can be the catalyst to create work that allows people to come together and have difficult conversations.” Cave explains how he uses his political background and his role as an artist in order to find ways to discuss issues with optimism and hope. The Frist Art Museum opened “Nick Cave: Feast” in Nashville in late 2017. They created an international tour to showcase Cave’s art, even though they didn’t initially plan to travel solo. This is evidence of how many people want to see Cave, according to Katie Delmez, Frist curator. It was rejected by about 12 institutions. Jackson is the final stop. “I believe that speaks to your deep-seated and sincere belief that it is just as important for people here in Jackson, Mississippi and Akron Ohio to see this art. It’s not just those living in art capitals like New York or Los Angeles.” Delmez identifies accessibility as a reason Cave’s art is so popular and sought-after. It doesn’t take an advanced degree or a master’s in art history to be overwhelmed by its beauty. You will be seduced by the bold colors, different textures, and patterns. Those who are interested in deeper analysis will find Cave’s artwork addresses difficult issues, especially identity as it relates race, gender, and sexuality. “He’s looking into some really persistent problems America continues to face, particularly racism, police brutality, and gun violence.” The Soundsuit is a gramophone-like top that encourages speaking out. A screened
screen_muffler keeps the sound out
It is made up of blue and black wire and bugle beads. Below, there are red, black, and green bugle beads to represent the African American flag. Then, it goes deep into the feeling of being silenced. Cave recycles and reuses craft objects. He shapes them into his work and elevates them. Cave traces his practice back to his childhood. It was a tradition that was passed down from six of my brothers. When it reached me, I thought, “I don’t want this.” I started remaking things. “I think that’s where it all started.” I also believe ornamentation plays a part. “How can you be authentic and beautiful when there is so much going on?” His fashion style, “Hustle Coat,” is an open-front trench coat that features gads full of shiny things. It harks back at the street sellers of his youth, whose coats could be opened to show a wide variety of items for sale. Cave says, “How do I design that myself?” Bob Faust’s colorful, vibrant wall art at the entrance of the exhibition and throughout this installation is a result of his creative process. Delmez says that source materials like pin baskets, doilies, and figurines can trigger memories and help connect viewers with people from all backgrounds. Many materials were made by women and are visible to those who worked on them. A remarkable find at a flea market was the head of an African-American man. According to its label, it was a
spittoon. Cave was led down “this crazy path,” says he, “of searching for the most offensive, repressive objects of black memorabilia I could find for my new body of work.” He realized that all of these objects were connected to some type of service. One wall piece is a cupped bronze hand reaching under layers of linen napkins. This could be read as an offering or receiving. The white napkin folds could be interpreted as a symbol of angel wings or the weight of history and time in the rings of trees. One large-scale installation called “Architectural Forest” is comprised of brightly colored beads and psychedelically-patterned strands made from bamboo. It hangs from the ceiling and invites viewers to explore it. At the exhibit’s opening, Betsy Bradley of Mississippi Museum of Art said to Cave: “What a universe!” It’s magic to me. It’s magic. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, admission is free for K-12 students.