Nick Cave, Soundsuits at Carriageworks in Sydney, Australia, in 2016 © Don Arnold/WireImage/Getty Images.
Glasgow’s Tramway is currently showing the first exhibition in Europe of established contemporary artist and activist Nick Cave, titled Until. Cave, who lives and works in Chicago, is renowned for his Soundsuits, compelling and ornate figurative sculptures that can be worn and performed. An artist whose work has been driven by the social and personal impact of racism for close to three decades, Cave created his first Soundsuit as a form of both camouflage and symbolic body armour, an insulating layer of accumulated materials and meanings.
Cave’s meticulously crafted sculptures feature materials often found in craft, kitsch, or folk contexts, while the forms evoke the outfits and celebrations of Mardi Gras parades, drag performance, and shamanistic or ritual costumes. Cave has been gathering this material for years ranging from antique toys, ceramic birds, fruit and animals, buttons, festive decorations, pompoms, crochet blankets, gramophones and pony beads.
In Tramway's main gallery, Cave shows a massive immersive installation made up of thousands of found objects which make viewers feel as if they have entered a rich sensory tapestry, akin to stepping directly inside the belly of one of his iconic Soundsuits. Though celebratory, the exhibition remains firmly connected to the political impetus behind Cave’s ongoing body of work, referencing complex issues of gun violence, racial profiling and gender politics that currently divide the US and communities around the world.
Watch Nick talk about a Soundsuit that is in the Smithsonian American Art Museum collection. One of more than 500 he has made during his career.
Until will function as an alternative town hall, becoming a gathering space for community events, performance and discussion throughout the duration of the exhibition. ‘I view this work as an elaborate community forum, as much as a work of sculpture’ notes Cave.
Until was organised by MASS MoCA, Massachusetts and co-produced with Carriageworks, Sydney and Crystal Bridges/The Momentary, Arkansas.
For more details about the exhibition and accompanying events, visit www.tramway.org
Nick Cave’s Soundsuits were featured in Selvedge Issue 65 Pop.