Cave’s first Soundsuit, made out of twigs, was a direct response to the Rodney King beating, a visual image about social justice that was both brutal and empowering. Just as the violence around the Rodney King beating was the impetus to Cave’s early work, the death of men such as Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown drives his new imagery. For Cave’s MASS MoCA installation, Until — a play on the phrase “innocent until proven guilty,” or in this case “guilty until proven innocent” — he addresses issues of gun violence, gun control policy, race relations, and gender politics in America today.
Until begins with a dense sculptural field of metallic lawn ornaments leading to a crystal cloud topped by a private garden populated with birds, flowers, and black-face lawn jockeys, finally coming to rest before a cliff wall hand-woven with shoelaces and hundreds of thousands of colorful pony beads. This is an active space where alluring kinetics and a sumptuous, overwhelming materiality give way to stark images of guns, bullets, and targets, positioning us all as culpable, vulnerable, and potentially under attack. The aim of this is pointed, questioning us to spark discussion about important issues in a space that is at once dazzling, provocative, and — ultimately — optimistic. Cave believes in humanity, celebrating possibility while also creating a forum for critical discussion that eventually provokes the question, “Is there racism in heaven?”
Emerging from the sculptural forest, vitiors are led into a crystal cloud suspended from the ceiling, topped by a garden of found cermaic birds, metal flowers, and lawn jockeys.
The sheer volume of material that has been gathered is astounding — 16,000 wind spinners; millions of plastic pony beads; thousands of ceramic birds, fruits, and animals; 13 gilded pigs; more than 10 miles of crystals; 24 chandeliers; 1 crocodile; and 17 cast-iron lawn jockeys.
An item Cave has used repeatedly is the lawn jockey. Cave transforms the jockeys into agents for change, placing beaded nets in their hands as dream catchers.
The journey through Until continues with a cliff wall constructed of millions of plastic beads and an immersive video of agitation and confinement.
The journey finally ends with a metaphoric cleaning admist a Mylar waterfall.
Nick Cave: Until was organized by MASS MoCA and co-produced by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art of Bentonville, Arkansas, and Carriageworks of Sydney, Australia.
Principal exhibition support was provided by an anonymous gift. Major exhibition support was provided by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Barr Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, Jack Shainman Gallery, Marilyn and Larry Fields, BeadKraft, and the Robert Lehman Foundation.
Exhibition photography by:
James Prinz and Grace Clark