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Frist Center for the Visual Arts opens a dynamic survey of Nick Cave's practice
Nick Cave. Architectural Forest, 2011. Bamboo, wood, wire, plastic beads, acrylic paint, screws, fluorescent lights, color filter gels, and vinyl, 136 x 372 x 192 in. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, in collaboration with the Fabric Workshop Museum, Philadelphia. © Nick Cave. Photo: James Prinz Photography.


NASHVILLE, TENN.- The Frist Center for the Visual Arts presents Nick Cave: Feat., a dynamic survey of the noted Chicago-based artist’s practice, on view in the Upper-Level Galleries through June 24, 2018. The exhibition contains an array of engaging works that are broadly accessible to audiences of all ages and backgrounds and, on a deeper level, speak to issues of identity, racial equity, and social justice. Cave will also direct the community-based project Nick Cave: Feat. Nashville, a monumental interdisciplinary performance work featuring local talent that will be presented twice on April 6, 2018.

Nick Cave (b. 1959) produces work in a wide range of mediums, including sculpture, installation, video, and performance. “Cave’s creations, bursting with color and texture, are optical delights that can be enjoyed by everyone,” says Frist Center curator Katie Delmez. “A closer look reveals that they also address racial profiling, gun violence, and civic responsibility.”

His trademark soundsuits, human-shaped sculptural forms composed of a variety of found and repurposed commonplace materials, were initially an artistic response to the beating of Rodney King by policeman in Los Angeles more than twenty-five years ago. “As an African American man, Cave felt particularly vulnerable after the incident, so he formed a type of armor that protected its wearer from profiling by concealing race, gender, and class,” says Delmez. The soundsuits are now part of an ongoing body of work in which items such as buttons, plastic hair-beads, domestic textiles, and vintage toys are upcycled into elaborate assemblages based on the artist’s own body. The series has become a collective army of resistance to profiling and violence, responding not only to police brutality but any crime motivated by hate—from the killing of Emanuel AME church members in Charleston to the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.

Ten soundsuits (2011–2017), is being displayed runway-style in the first gallery of the exhibition. “The wearable sculptures—visually related to Mardi Gras Indian costumes, African ceremonial attire, and Tibetan folk attire—illustrate how Cave’s practice straddles the visual and performing arts,” says Delmez.

Along with themes of equity and human connectivity, Cave wants his art to spark viewers’ creativity and aspirations. This exhibition’s title, Feat., refers to the exceedingly hard work that goes into attaining success. It also references the terminology used to highlight performers in promotional materials—a nod to Nashville’s creative community.

Through immersive installations, Cave intends to provide a space—away from chaotic contemporary life—where viewers’ imaginations can thrive. The runway of soundsuits is surrounded by walls covered with thousands of shimmering buttons attached to dark fabric. These Button Walls (2013) are meant to suggest a starry night sky, and memories of gazing at it with his six brothers as a child in rural Missouri. “Cave’s emphasis on the imagination is not to escape reality, but to create new ideas to help us navigate, maybe even improve, our condition,” says Delmez.

Viewers may also feel enveloped by the life-size projection of the video, Blot (2012), which features a figure wearing black raffia soundsuit in constant motion against a stark white background. The endlessly morphing forms are open to personal interpretation, similar to blots on a Rorschach test.

The Architectural Forest (2011)—rarely on view since its creation—is a large-scale hanging installation with thousands of brightly colored beads and pseudo-psychedelic patterned strands of bamboo and is best appreciated by multiple viewpoints.

The exhibition concludes with densely assembled wall-mounted sculptures dripping with ceramic birds, painted metal flowers, beads, crystals, and other ornaments found in thrift stores—even antique gramophones. These works bestow value on memories and objects that may be overlooked by mainstream society, an underlying theme throughout Cave’s practice.

“Through the exhibition Feat. and the accompanying performance Nick Cave: Feat. Nashville, Cave hopes to provide a transformative, inspirational, and empowering opportunity for all,” says Delmez.






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November 12, 2017

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