On View: American Art Galleries, 5th Floor, Beyond Borders and Boundaries, 20th and 21st Centuries
Since the early 1990s, Nick Cave has been fabricating inventive sculptures out of scavenged materials, which he often overlays with beadwork, stitching, and other embellishments. One of the first, crafted from twigs, was made to be worn and created a rustling sound, which led to the eventual name of such works: Soundsuits. Cave’s costumes draw from a variety of sources, including both African and Caribbean traditions of masquerade.
In performance, Cave’s work invokes moments of whimsical transcendence—but a very real, grounded, and nuanced understanding of the racialized nature of American society is often just underneath. Overcoming the distinctions between “fine art” and “craft,” as well as “performance” and “street” art, Cave’s Soundsuits may also serve as a sort of armor, protecting against the violence of racial stereotypes and giving their wearers an outsize, fanciful, and transcendent presence. Cave designed his first Soundsuit in response to the brutal police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1992.
Cave’s costumes enable performers to be seen free from the constraints of being placed in categories, and to be free to transform their environment into an otherworldly space.
Exhibited ACTUAL dims: 112 x 43 x 35 in. (284.5 x 109.2 x 88.9 cm)
figure: estimated dims: 82 × 24 × 24 in. (208.3 × 61 × 61 cm)
armature: estimated dims, fully assembled: 60 × 48 × 48 in. (152.4 × 121.9 × 121.9 cm)
Mannequin height: 75 in. (190.5 cm)
minimum height of cage with top 2 levels of branches removed: 52 in. (132.1 cm)
minimum clear (show scale)
Mary Smith Dorward Fund
© Nick Cave
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Nick Cave (American, born 1959). Soundsuit, 2008. Mixed media, Exhibited ACTUAL dims: 112 x 43 x 35 in. (284.5 x 109.2 x 88.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Mary Smith Dorward Fund, 2009.44a-b. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Image courtesy of Robilant Voena, CUR.2009.44a-b_James_Prinz_Shainman_Gallery_photo_NC08.jpg)
. Image courtesy of Robilant Voena, 2016
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a) mannequin; b) headdress
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