Nick Cave tailors suits that are sculpture, clothing characters that spring out of his imagination. Stately guardians preside in shaggy, day-glow pink hair; polar bears wear sweaters that stick out in humorous places; and dancers are adorned with white beaded filigree crowns. Suits like this have never been seen before. Partly this is due to his choice of improbable materials—buttons, plastic tabs, hot pads, metal flowers, sandwich bags, spinning tops and crocheted doilies—which are used to make visually fierce and impeccably detailed suits. Multiple media installations remind us of the desire for these wearable sculptures to move and perform. Photographs of Nick Cave alone and a posse mixing it up in a massive street party show off how playful and unexpected his suits can be.
Few suits bridge cultures so effectively. Nick’s "Soundsuits" have been described as a cross between Carnival, Liberace, Shonibare, Cockney, haute couture and African ceremony. He manages to make sculpture that combines high fashion, surface design, recycling, dance and sound. Extremely resourceful, Nick transforms the perception of secondhand or vintage materials and heightens a tension between the ordinary and the imaginary.
Given Seattle’s emphasis on street performance, textiles, DIY, recycling and contemporary artists who strive to be the best at their genre of art, this exhibition is a natural fit. For the Seattle Art Museum, Nick’s suits give a new twist on what is a strong emphasis on masquerade in the African collection. Two examples of his suits currently on view have been cited as an intriguing introduction to an artist whose depth has only recently been given national attention. This exhibition is the first major assembly of art by Nick Cave to tour museums and set the stage for the center of the earth, where Soundsuits have found a sanctuary.
For more about the artist, from the artist, visit Soundsuitshop.com.
—Pam McClusky, Curator, Art of Africa and Oceania
Soundsuit in motion, Nick Cave, American, b. 1961, mixed media, © Nick Cave, Photo: James Prinz