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Immersive installation by Nick Cave on view at MASS MoCA
View of Nick Cave, Until, MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts, 2016. Photo: Douglas Mason.

NORTH ADAMS, MASS.- Nick Cave, the Chicago-based artist celebrated for his wearable sculptures called "Soundsuits," turns expectations inside out at MASS MoCA in a new immersive installation titled Until. Using MASS MoCA’s signature football field-sized gallery, Cave creates his largest, most complex, and politically poignant installation to date. “This is me putting you into the belly of a Soundsuit,” he told The New York Times. “It’s me grabbing you by the hand and saying, ‘Let’s jump into the Soundsuit.'”

Often seen as celebrations of movement and material, 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. Until—a play on the phrase “innocent until proven guilty,” or in this case “guilty until proven innocent”—addresses issues of gun violence, gun control policy, race relations, and gender politics in America today. Just as the violence around the Rodney King beating was the impetus to his early work, the death of black men such as Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown drive his imagery today.

Over three years in the making, Until is a complex, compassionate and emotional work. The sheer volume of material that was assembled for the exhibition is astounding: 16,000 wind spinners; millions of plastic pony beads; thousands of ceramic birds, fruits, and animals; 24 chandeliers; 13 gilded pigs; 17 cast-iron lawn jockeys; a fiberglass crocodile; and more than ten miles of crystals. But even more than its material make-up, Cave’s project is about the sense of urgency he feels as an artist—and as a human—to create a forum for discussion around the complicated issues of gun violence, police brutality, and racism.

Until is a journey. It begins with a dense sculptural field of metallic lawn ornaments that lead to a crystal cloud topped by a private garden populated with birds, flowers, and cast-iron lawn jockeys, before coming to rest at the foot of a mountain hand-woven with shoelaces and millions of colorful pony beads. This is an active space where alluring kinetics and a sumptuous, overwhelming materiality give way to stark images of guns, bullets, and targets, positioning us all as culpable, vulnerable, and potentially under attack. This is a garden of (un)earthly delights that is at once dazzling, provocative, and, ultimately, optimistic. Cave believes in humanity, celebrating possibility while also creating a forum for critical discussion that provokes the question, “Is there racism in heaven?”

“I view this work as a theater set, or an elaborate community forum, as much as a work of sculpture,” notes Cave. As such, throughout the ten-month run of the exhibition, the space will become a stage for performances, community events, and dialogue by dancers, singer-songwriters, pop artists, poets, composers, and community members.

Nick Cave: Until is on view through September 2017. MASS MoCA opens its 120,000 square foot “Building 6” in May 2017 as part of its Phase III Expansion, which includes long-term partnerships with Laurie Anderson, Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Holzer, James Turrell, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. A 2017 Memorial Day weekend opening is planned.

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