Nick Cave

A sacred space has been created, filled with the aura of timeless ritual. The reliquaries and invocations of spirit presented here are metaphors for our human ability to transcend life's circumstances, adversity, loss, and even death. Nick Cave is at once archaeologist and shaman as he assembles this evidence of the human condition for our contemplation and enlightenment. The objects he has chosen to enshrine transcend their deeply personal references to speak to the soul of Everyman.

A seductive magic occurs for both artist and viewer when the artist gives meaning and shape to the personal, emotionally-charged material of real life by abstracting it into concentrated, impactful forms. Sculptor Louise Bourgeois has said of this phenomenon, "If there is magic in the making, then there is magic in the discovery. . . The magic is in the artist's own identification with the work, and that magic brings it back to other people." This is true of the works in this exhibition, which deal with art's redemptive qualities.

The ritual gathering of Cave's objects evokes nostalgia, not only for our immediate past, but for our primal roots, as we enter into an intimate dialogue with each piece. A sense of honoring and letting-go is inherent in his artist-as-magician process of selection, amalgamation, re-creation and presentation. A minimalist format heightens the emotional intensity of the atmosphere. The energetic compositions in the main gallery are an appropriate prelude to the resolution and peace of the inner sanctum.

The large, untitled wall assemblage conveys the artist's intense emotional rapport with materials and with the process of recycling. Its identifiable components, both "found" and manufactured, have been re-ordered and resolved into a symphony of form and movement. Always deeply affected by his environment, Cave finds centering and release in the acts of collecting objects from his surroundings and fabricating intuitive works which provoke an emotional response from the viewer. He says, " I am always recycling and redefining who I am, as well." We are able to make associations from unexpected juxtapositions of the bits and fragments which reflect the fractal nature of our lives. The reinvented elements are reformulations of our history.

In Scalped of Formalities, we are confronted with numerous hair fetishes in various states of change, decay and destruction. They suggest remnants of human presences. The defacing of this symbol of power and beauty makes us aware of a monumental struggle for survival. An undaunted elegance in the midst of the ongoing devastation inspires our admiration and respect. Impressions and feelings from Cave's childhood roots find resolution here through the transformative power of art.

The seventeen condom/specimens of Contraceptive #17 demand investigation. The condom shape speaks of safety and precautions that must be taken in life and of risk-taking. The amber-tinted glass suggests bodily fluids- a residue that links to the possibility of danger. Glass and rusted metal have been joined in a stately dance with death. On closer inspection, each condom form also reveals some sort of blemish, the indications of our humanness. Underlying the overall seductiveness of the piece is a chilling awareness of our responsibilities.

Individual boxed wall pieces in the show are clear metaphors for life and death, as well. Each one also deals with a release of old feelings and moving on, moving forward. A small, untitled hanging work casts a powerful spell. Two hands shackled by a biscuit cutter might refer both to slavery and to the role of women in society. The hands offer a decaying shaker-globe with a Mary figure, and a set of nails with numbered heads for our wistful contemplation. This unpredictable and disturbing combination sparks many associations. The power of religion in Cave's upbringing is apparent here, as is the different perspective he has gained in maturity.

The ceremonial atmosphere intensifies in the inner sanctum. Here, the earthen floor suggests a funeral space, a sense of impending burial. The mysterious objects laid out for viewing in massive Commemorative Containers expose artifacts of the history of time and the evolution of human creativity. We can only approach them with reverence. For Cave, this work explores the resolution of loss in a touching memorial to the passing of family members and friends. He has reflected on the loss of the past and found serenity and renewal in that reflective space, regaining strength and the motivation to continue. "It's dark, but peaceful, and we can all go there."

The Containers are presented in a cathartic gesture of offering. The enigmatic objects in each box invite us to explore each one. We are asked to discover and experience their stories; to be flooded with memories of a time, a place, an emotion, or of the presence of an individual. Thus we are moved by, and moved through, an experience of loss. Cave says, "There are things in these boxes that mean a great deal to me-- my grandfather's hand-made paint brushes, for example. It's about him, but also about the history of time in terms of his economic situation and how he found ways to paint, whatever the circumstances. It's a tribute to human ingenuity."

We can also identify with the array of "found" gloves in Lost and Found. We view the lineup in bewilderment, searching for lost identities. There is wistful beauty in their various states of decay and melancholy in their multitude. The ghostly presence of their absent wearers lingers in the fetishistic forms encrusted with the patina of the ravages of time and the elements. A similarly compelling history is contained in the worn and aging tar paper background that speaks eloquently of the process of transformation and survival. The entire presentation is a mournful homage.

In contrast to these dark works, a sense of space and light, eternity and hope is introduced through the numinous, intuitive Sprit Drawings. These ephemeral collaged sketches in dryer lint, informed by visitations from Cave's lost brother, elevate and rejuvenate, leaving us with the visible spirit-substance necessary for facing life anew. "We need awareness of this aspect of life, too," says Cave. "In order to understand life, we also need to understand death."

The works presented in this exhibition are an extension of Cave's well-known work with costume, performance and ritual. In his ongoing Sound Suit Series, Cave also honors that which has been cast aside and stamped with the forces of time and nature. In collecting odd bits of wood, bottle caps, and other detritus and transforming them into magnificent or outrageous garb, he reveals a playful wizardry. His performances show us that he also has the legendary abilities of a Shape-Shifter. The strong sculptural work in Collected Formalities makes a huge leap from the theatrical disguise and camouflage of costume. Cave has embarked here on a transcendental order of recycling- refined in its definition and focus, and certain in its concept. As he enshrines for us these assortments of seemingly archaeological, anthropological and religious artifacts, he also reveals the depths of his shamanic gifts: the ability to become an intermediary between art and daily life, between past and present, anger and forgiveness, grief and resolution, sorrow and hope.

Karen Searle
Minneapolis, MN

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