“I had been thinking about gun violence and racism colliding…and then I wondered: Is there racism in heaven? Until is the physical result of that question."
Nick Cave is an artist, educator, and foremost a messenger, working between the visual and performing arts through a wide range of mediums, including sculpture, installation, video, sound, and performance. Throughout his practice Cave has incorporated found historical objects into contemporary dialogues on gun violence and death, creating spaces of memorial that underscore the anxiety of severe trauma brought on by catastrophic loss. The figure remains central to his work; he often casts his own body in bronze, an extension of the performative work so critical to his oeuvre.
Cave, born in Missouri in 1959, is best known for his Soundsuits, sculptural forms based on the scale of his body, initially created in direct response to the police beating of Rodney King in 1991. The forms camouflage the body, masking and creating a second skin that conceals race, gender, and class, forcing the viewer to look without judgment. They serve as a visual embodiment of social justice that represents both brutality and empowerment.
Cave’s work reminds us that while there may be despair, there remains space for hope and renewal. From dismembered body parts stem delicate metal flowers, affirming the potential of new growth. The artist encourages a profound and compassionate analysis of violence and its effects as the path towards an ultimate metamorphosis. While his works are rooted in our current social moment, when progress on issues of global warming, racism, and gun violence (both at the hands of citizens and law enforcement) seem maddeningly stalled, Cave asks how we may reposition ourselves to recognize the issues, come together on a global scale, instigate change, and ultimately, heal.
Nick Cave is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery.