Thu Jan 29 2009
Photography By Courtesy Jack Shaiman Gallery
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Although Nick Cave is best known for his “Soundsuits,” the Memphis-born, Chicago-based artist has gone to great lengths in his latest show to reveal his range by including mixed-media sculptural objects. Noble as the effort is, it’s difficult to upstage Cave’s dizzyingly vibrant, life-size outfits made of found fabrics and materials like metal flowers, ceramic birds, beads, sequins, ribbons, quilts and spinning tops. The results resemble an unlikely blend of yeti, carnival reveler and religious officiate.
Named after the noise they emit when worn (usually by Cave himself), the Soundsuits are interdisciplinary hybrids that absorb the language of sculpture, installation, performance and fashion design, drawing inspiration from such sources as African-American vernacular culture and African masquerade. With so many signifiers at play, it’s a mystery why they’ve been displayed in such a static arrangement: A U-shaped catwalk at the center of the gallery manages only to drain the works of energy, turning the show into a museological reliquary.
In the other pieces, Cave has refashioned objects from America’s inglorious past into sculptural assemblages. Included are a black lawn-jockey holding a macram mandala, a large cross-shaped wall-piece filled with black male-and-female salt-and-pepper shakers and a black figurine atop a shoe shiner’s kit. While Cave’s work communicates unresolved feelings of power and subjection within contemporary African-American identity, it also provides a crucial avenue for aesthetic and sociopolitical remixing.—Nuit Banai
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