Nick Cave (performance artist)
Nick Cave (born February 4, 1959 in Fulton, Missouri, USA) is an American fabric sculptor, dancer, and performance artist. He is best known for his Soundsuits: wearable fabric sculptures that are bright, whimsical, and other-worldly. He also trained as a dancer with Alvin Ailey. He resides in Chicago and is director of the graduate fashion program at School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Early life and education
Nick Cave was raised in central Missouri, by a single mother. He is the youngest of seven boys, and the family was of modest means. Cave attributes his interest in found objects and assemblage to his childhood circumstances.
Cave learned to sew in the fiber department of the Kansas City Art Institute, where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1982. Also during his time he began studying dance through an Alvin Ailey program, both in Kansas City and New York City. Additionally doing some graduate coursework at North Texas State University, Cave went on to get a master's degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan in 1989.
After moving to Chicago, Cave became the chair of the Department of Fashion Design at the School of the Art Institute in 1980.
Soundsuits are sculptural costumes enveloping the wearer's body in materials including dyed human hair, sisal, plastic buttons, beads, wire, sequins, and feathers. In using everyday objects, Cave can create an atmosphere of familiarity while rearranging them into interpretive representations of both social and material culture. As race, identity, and gender are generally accepted to form the axis of his work, Cave's Soundsuits can telegraph many concepts simultaneously. The meaning of the suits can therefore change based on their environment, movement, fixed state, and/or the inclusion of group choreography. The finished pieces bear some resemblance to African ceremonial costumes and masks. The suits also reference carnival costumes, Dogon costumes, Rococo, and ball culture.
Cave's first Soundsuit was created in 1992, as a reaction to the beating of Rodney King. Cave collected a large number of sticks and twigs from the ground and fashioned them into a suit that made sound when worn. His suits are most often presented for public viewing as static sculptures, but also through live performance, video, and photographs. Bringing his interactive creations to life, "Cave regularly performs in the sculptures himself, dancing either before the public or for the camera, activating their full potential as costume, musical instrument, and living icon."
Cave's work outside of his iconic soundsuits is predominantly mixed media sculptures and large-scale installations. Maintaining his signature style utilizing found objects and brightly colored fabrics, Cave creates sculptural art that discusses current racial tensions, especially gun violence and it's impact on Black men. One such piece that speaks directly to this is "TM 13", a sculpture that responds to the life and death of Trayvon Martin. Martin was a young Black man shot to death by George Zimmerman in 2012. Zimmerman was acquitted of Martin's murder on July 13, 2013; hence the title "TM 13". By no means the first Black man to be shot due to racial profiling, Martin's case gained national attention and became ingrained in the cultural discourse very quickly. Cave, looking to address this tragedy, created a powerful sculpture centering around a hoodie, denim pants, a Black mannequin, and sneakers. The sculpture is conspicuously covered in a net, "creat[ing] a kind of Soundsuit for the ghost of Trayvon Martin. A way for a dead black teenager to make an outcry and an uproar, to protest against his undeserved demise".
His mixed media sculptures often include black doll or mannequin parts (heads, hands, etc) that are placed at the center or top of a piece, creating an altar-like semblance. By focusing his pieces in this manner, viewers of his art can "examine the history of trauma and racism, ... the objectification of the black male". His 2014 exhibition 'Rescue' " inspects the idea of servitude and the accompanying stigma within the Black community". Most of these works are not audible, like his 2016-2017 exhibition 'Until' at MASS MoCa, as Cave wants the exhibition participants "to be included — and implicated — in the work" as opposed to focusing on sound and movement. The act of viewing his works with participants seeing each other at the same time is a metaconcept Cave actively promotes.
- 2017 - "Feat." -The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN
- 2016 - "Until" - MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA
- 2015 - "Here Hear" - Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI
- 2014 - "Rescue"- Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, NY
- 2014 - "Made by Whites for Whites" - Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, NY 
- 2014 - "Currents 109" - Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, MO 
- 2014 - "Nick Cave" - The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA 
- 2013 - "Sojourns" - Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colo.
- 2013 - "FreePort [No. 006]" Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA
- 2013 - "The World is My Skin", Trapholt, Kolding, Denmark
- 2013 - "Heard" - Grand Central Station, New York.
- 2012 - "Meet Me at the Center of the Earth", Boise Art Museum, Boise
- 2012 - "Let's C" - The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia 
- 2011 - "For Now" -Mary Boone Gallery,New York City, New York
- 2011 - "Meet Me at the Center of the Earth" -Seattle Art Museum, Washington
- 2010 - "Soundsuits" - Studio la Città, Verona, Italy
- 2010 - "Meet Me at the Center of the Earth", UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, California
- 2010 - "Pattern ID" - featuring Soundsuits, Akron Art Museum, Akron, Ohio
- 2009 - "Meet Me at the Center of the Earth", Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, California
- 2009 - "Nick Cave: Recent Soundsuits", Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, New York
- 2008 - "Alter-Skins" Fosdick-Nelson Gallery, Alfred, New York
- 2008 - "Nick Cave: Soundsuits", Society for Contemporary Craft, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- 2008 - De Young Museum San Francisco
- 2007 - "Second Skins: Sculptural Soundsuits and Tondos", Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, Jacksonville, Florida
- 2006 - "Soundsuits", Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, Illinois
- 2006 - Jack Shainman Gallery, New York City, New York
- 2006 - Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- 2005 - "Soundsuits", Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- 2004 - "Soundsuits", Holter Museum of Art, Helena, Montana
- 2003 - Hand Workshop Art Center, Richmond, Virginia
- 2002 - Macalester College of Art, Saint Paul, Minnesota
- 2002 - Wright Museum of Art, Beloit, Wisconsin
- 2002 - The Sybaris Gallery, Royal Oak, Michigan
- 2001 - "Nick Cave: New Works", Xavier University Art Gallery, Cincinnati, Ohio
- 2001 - "Amalgamations", Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, Pennsylvania
- 2001 - "Nick Cave: Objects of Desire", Noel Gallery, Charlotte, North Carolina
- 2001 - Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, Indiana
- 2000 - "Nick Cave 2000", Duane Reed Gallery, Chicago, Illinois
- 1999 - "Nick Cave: New Works", Zone One Gallery, Asheville, North Carolina
- 1999 - "Reparations", South Bend Museum of Art, South Bend, Indiana
- 1998 - "Nick Cave: Performance and Exhibition", Jack Olson Gallery, College of Visual and Performing Arts, Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, Illinois
- 1997 - "Nick Cave: New Works", Grand Arts, Kansas City, Missouri
- Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN
- Nelsan Atkins http://www.nelson-atkins.org/art/exhibitions/nickcave/, Kansas City, MO
- Birmingham Museum of Art
- Brooklyn Museum
- Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
- Detroit Institute of Arts
- High Museum of Art
- de Young Museum
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
- Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
- Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
- Museum of Modern Art
- Norton Museum of Art
- Orlando Museum of Art
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
- Smithsonian Institution
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