By Glenda Rice Collins (Last updated September 20, 2020)
Bentonville, Ark., USA — During a Zoom virtual news media preview discussion Thursday, installation and performance artist Nick Cave, of Soundsuit fame, shared that ”It was not until Michael Brown (2014 fatal shooting victim in Ferguson, Missouri) happened,” that the catalyst for Nick Cave: Until ignited in his mind with the thoughts, “Is there racism in heaven?…and how do we get to heaven? …I threw it to the universe…during a time of transition.”
Organized by MASS MoCA, the largest and most ambitious project yet from the renowned visionary. opened Saturday at The Momentary, continuing through January 3, 2021, free, with no tickets required. The title Until references the phrase “innocent until proven guilty,” or, a reversal, “guilty until proven innocent,” also addressing gender, race, and gun violence issues in America.
NICK CAVE: UNTIL
September 12, 2020 – January 3, 2021 at The Momentary
Composed of six installations that come together to create an immersive space, Nick Cave: Until was previously on view at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, Carriageworks in Sydney, Australia, and Tramway in Glasgow, Scotland.
Denise Markonish, senior curator and director of exhibitions at MASS MoCA, and Lauren Haynes, director of artist initiatives and curator, contemporary art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Momentary, provided an overview of the Nick Cave: Until exhibition, during the virtual news media preview Thursday.
Nick Cave: Until was curated by Markonish, and organized for the Momentary by Haynes. The exhibition was organized by MASS MoCA and co-produced with Carriageworks, Sydney, Australia, and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
The Journey: Cave and Crystal Clouds
“With Denise, at MASS MoCA, a new moment (provided opportunity) to shift my way of thinking and working,” said Cave Thursday, about his Until. “Crystal clouds and elevation,” came to mind, he explains. “When I think about (American shooting victims) Michael Brown, Trayvon (Martin), and (Breonna) Taylor,…(I think) not in our backyards,” thus further inspiring the “spinner forest” concept, stunning within Until, as “…that place of home and innocence.”
Reckoning with Cognitive Dissonance
Yet the disparity of guns and hummingbirds creates cognitive dissonance. “It hits the gut, and I was torn between these emotions,” said Cave.
Perhaps hitting too close to home for the Fulton, Missouri native, the haunting 2014 Michael Brown incident in nearby Ferguson, triggered much more reckoning to come, globally, for Cave, as well as for multitudes of distressed civilians amid questionable police practices, brutality, guns, and violence.
“When Nick’s mother first saw Until installed, she burst into tears,” said Markonish. The complexity of powerful emotions is understandable.
The Evolution of Creative Synergy
Haynes: “I started (to work) at Crystal Bridges as Until was opening at MASS MoCA, then at Carriageworks.”
“In addition to being an immersive visual art exhibition, Nick Cave: Until is meant to be a place for reflection and introspection on race and gun violence in America,” she has stated, as a person of color, herself.
“The ideas and topics covered in Nick Cave: Until are front of mind for many Black Americans on a day-to-day basis. It’s our hope that with Until, others will spend some time considering these important issues and consider what they can do to help make change.”
Markonish: Regarding Until, “We needed to find partners,” she thought, as The Momentary was still in development.
Haynes: “(Nick’s) work sprang from this tragically American moment (the Brown shooting and death)…and in Australia with indigenous (concerns)…innocent vs. guilty…a universal experience (is reflected).”
Cave: “It’s about humanity, and how do we address the ‘isms’ and the space?”
The Creative Process
Cave: “Starting at MASS MoCA…the entire Gallery 5…as a studio…became my home away from home for two months,” working with 20 people building the concept. “We then had to re-imagine (the installation), to still carry the same sort of impact” in each new venue later.
Markonish: “With our commitment to performance art and visual (mediums), this would become a platform,” “….as one of the most important (aspects) that empowers communities…to help each other (with Hope) during the darkest times. Nick’s work allows people to be completely vulnerable.”
Systemic Change: Leadership Matters
“The Momentary is a purveyor of the present, offering an artistic reflection of the current moment. This moment, this remarkable year 2020, is all about change—adapting, listening actively, and learning how an art space can best serve the needs of every community member and visitor,” Lieven Bertels, director of the Momentary, has stated. “It is clear that our work to eradicate racism and injustice requires long-term systemic change.
“Even as a young institution, we are committed to creating meaningful efforts to change our community. We will continue to offer art as a platform for important and difficult conversations about racism in America and current events. Nick Cave: Until does that beautifully.”
(View a list of family-friendly arts-related resources recommended by Bertels during the current pandemic, at this link: https://themomentary.org/blog/momentary-recommends-resources-from-lieven-bertels/).
Art and Architecture
Haynes: “For Cave’s Crystal Cloudspace (at the Momentary), “we had to cut back part of the mezzanine, about half, (during renovations of the re-purposed, former Kraft cheese factory) in order for it to fit.” Luckily, Cave had visited the venue on previous occasions, before it debuted as a unique visual and performance art space, and he became a significant part of the recipe for ongoing Until success.
Cave: “I love this merging of visual and performing arts, and what it will provide with this type of invitation…to see it evolve over time.”
Cave: “As an artist (also providing service)…I was in need for Until. After (recent lethal brutality victim) George Floyd, it brings me hope, optimism, and reflection. I need this as a place of comfort.
Haynes: “Space…To be away…with time for reflection…and standing up for hope” (is provided within Until). “Being under Crystal Cloudscape, I feel like I can breathe.”
More to come
According to Neuman, throughout the 16-week duration of the exhibition, the galleries at the Momentary will serve as a studio and stages for a select group of local, regional, and national artists, working across multiple forms of expression, to include dance, theater, writing, and fashion. “The artists will be challenged to create their own responses” to the questions raised by Cave’s exhibition. Artists and programs will be announced during the ongoing exhibition.
Dance, Textiles, and Drama Expanded
As a powerful dancer-artist, Cave brings a unique diversity of vibrant talents to his visionary artistry, having studied movement with the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and fiber arts at the Kansas City Art Institute (BFA, 1982), before going on to receive his MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan (1989). Cave also attended North Texas State University (1984-86).
Having once been advised to focus his talent on one medium, Cave clearly excels in defining his own brand of visionary and immersive synergy, with great diversity!
Now internationally-known for his innovative Soundsuits, and engaging pop-up performances with his unpredictable, eye-popping entourage, Cave created his first Soundsuit — a wearable, colorful sculpture that defends the body and masks identity — in 1992, when he reflected on the police beatings of Rodney King that took place in Los Angeles.
Having created more than 500 Soundsuits since then, in Nick Cave: Until, “Cave places viewers inside the metaphorical belly of one of his Soundsuits,” now manifested in 24,000 square feet of exhibit space at The Momentary, according to Neuman.
Plan Your Visits
Throughout the duration of Nick Cave: Until, the galleries at the Momentary will be open Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (closed Monday).
COVID-19 Safety Precautions
Safety is the Momentary’s top priority. The Momentary is operating at a one-third capacity with staff monitoring upon entry and exit to ensure proper distancing is taking place.
For additional details about visiting The Momentary and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art during the COVID19 pandemic, visit the momentary.org and crystalbridges.org. Free, timed-entry tickets, and face coverings, are currently required, and available. “Walk-ups welcome. as capacity allows.”
Humanity remains steeped in an unprecedented brew of uncertainties since the February 2020 debut of The Momentary, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art’s new satellite museum for contemporary art. (Read Crystal Bridges debuts the Momentary, Part I: Political Themes Anew at: https://glendaricecollins.com/2020/02/28/crystal-bridges-debuts-the-momentary-part-i-political-themes-anew/ .
As the COVID 19 pandemic broadened its global reaches, museum doors closed for months, locking in artistic treasures away from public view. With more time for introspection and outward analyses, next came the explosion of mostly peaceful protests, with Black Lives Matter messages included, in response to well-known, continuing systemic social justice issues and needless violence and deaths.
Related Exhibition Ongoing
Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…
Cincinnati Art Museum, September 4, 2020–November 8, 2020
Sadly, Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal… — an amazing body of work installed at Crystal Bridges main museum before the March pandemic lockdown, and on view as The Momentary debuted — was quarantined before it could be fully savored. The exhibition has moved on to Cincinnati Art Museum now, and is equally worthy of “black lives matter” attention. Read more about Thomas in a separate feature, coming soon to glendaricecollins.com.
Nick Cave: Until — Additional Credits
Nick Cave, Beaded Cliff Wall, 2016, Pony beads, netting, shoelaces, rope, aluminum
Nick Cave, Kinetic Spinner Forest, 2016, Custom and off-the-shelf wind spinners, cable, motors
Nick Cave, Hy-Dyve, 2016, 14-channel video installation with sound, 8-minute loop, Director: Sandro Miller, Creative Director: Bob Faust, Project Designer: Liviu Pasare; Sound, Brian Lietner, Utopic
Nick Cave and Bob Faust, Wallwork (Until) 2020, Adhesive vinyl wallpaper, Photos: James Prinz and Doug Mason
Nick Cave: Until Principal exhibition support was provided by an anonymous gift. Major exhibition support was provided by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Barr Foundation, the Mass Cultural Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, Jack Shainman Gallery, Marilyn and Larry Fields, BeadKraft, and the Robert Lehman Foundation.