Cave, Wall relief with 4 panels.

Nick Cave at the Guggenheim Museum

The Nick Cave show Forothermore at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC might be the most memorable I have ever seen. For years, I have marveled at pictures of Cave’s varied art, the busyness of it, and the obsessive nature of the materials. I was always taken in by the look and the craft of it, imagining an artist with extra human energy. The grand scale of his works made for a breathtaking experience. Just looking at Cave’s works would be enough to excite me and make me think. However, the museum’s wall descriptions of what has fueled Cave’s work add to their power and excitement.

Cave boy and animal-1

Cave, a gay Black man, is also a dancer and performance artist, best known for his Soundsuits. The brutal beating of Rodney King in 1991, and other racial injustices had a profound effect on him. Cave, feeling vulnerable, noticed that twigs and sticks made rustling noises when in motion. He said he wanted to protect himself with a “second skin, or a suit of armor” which “erases gender, race, and class.” These suits are also meant to empower the person wearing them. Soundsuit, the name of the first, made entirely of twigs, is about 9 feet tall. Others are taller.  Cave uses beads, wire, sequins, buttons, toys, ornaments, furniture, and more in his wildly creative Soundsuits series, and other works.

Cave’s Sound Suits
Twig Soundsuits and others

“I use my art as a vehicle for change. I’m interested in thinking about art as an array of vast options. Like, how can this work serve as a catalyst for intervention? I want my work to be defined by the greatest effect I can have on the world.”

Wall sculpture
Time and Again

Cave is involved with community action groups, and often stages “convenings”, where he brings together dancers, musicians, poets, and others to perform and have discussions. Signs on a wall in the Forothermore show list the names of the many people who help Cave make his art, in multiple workspaces in Chicago. I no longer imagine Cave a solitary maniacal genius making elaborate sculptures; he’s a genius who expands on his imagination with the grateful help of others.

This exhibit is up till April 10, 2023 so you still have time to visit!

by Nancy Whitcomb, member of New England Wax