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Posted on: January 4, 2017

Telfair Museums presents Nick Cave, an exploration of art and identity

As part of Telfair Museums’ growing contemporary art program, the museum will showcase the largest exhibition of work by Chicago-based artist Nick Cave ever presented in Georgia, including work shown in the Southeast for the first time. Nick Cave is on view at the Jepson Center from January 27 through April 23, 2017.

Nick Cave (American, b. 1959) is an internationally renowned artist, an educator, and foremost a messenger. Cave works between the visual and performing arts through a wide range of mediums including sculpture, installation, video, sound, and performance. He is well known for his soundsuits, sculptural forms based on the scale of his body, which he describes as “full-body suits constructed of materials that rattle with movement. … Like a coat of armor, they embellish the body while protecting the wearer from outside culture.” Soundsuits are made of collected, found, and repurposed materials such as yarn, children’s toys, human hair, baskets, sequins, and buttons.

As sculpture, the soundsuits are often extravagantly embellished and beautiful in their painstaking attention to detailed craftsmanship, but their meaning is much deeper. As an African American man, Cave created his first soundsuit in response to the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles in 1992. A second skin that conceals race, gender, and class, soundsuits camouflage the body, forcing viewers to look without bias or judgment.
While Cave’s iconic soundsuits are intentionally meant to defy immediate categorization, they also speak to cultural traditions such as costuming and masquerading, particularly in the construction of African American identity. “Nick Cave’s artistic vision presents a unique message in the world today, encouraging nuanced discussions of personal and cultural identity, particularly with regard to race in America,” said Rachel Reese, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “The soundsuits are vessels of transformation that project physical power, and they’re also simply breathtaking as art objects.”

The exhibition at the Jepson Center features a selection of soundsuits made within the last decade, including the installation of a seven-part soundsuit titled Speaker Louder (2011), as well as two tondos—large circular works evoking the night sky and the cosmos. Two videos showing soundsuits worn in performance will give viewers a sense of the synthesis of sound and dance that is integral to Cave’s artistic practice.

The exhibition is accompanied by a newly-commissioned essay by scholar Dr. Regina Bradley, Assistant Professor of African American Literature at Armstrong State University in Savannah. Dr. Bradley writes about post-Civil Rights African American literature, the contemporary Black American South, pop culture, race and sound, and Hip Hop.

About the artist
Nick Cave recently opened a massive immersive installation Until at MASS MoCA curated by Denise Markonish. His solo exhibition Here Hear was on view at the Cranbrook Art Museum (2015). Other solo exhibitions include St. Louis Art Museum (2014-2015), the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (2014) and the Denver Art Museum (2013).

Public collections include the Brooklyn Museum; Crystal Bridges; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the High Museum; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; the Norton Museum of Art; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Birmingham Museum of Art; the De Young Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Orlando Museum of Art; the Smithsonian Institution; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others.

Cave has received several prestigious awards including: the Americans for the Arts 2014 Public Art Network Year in Review Award (2014) in recognition of his Grand Central Terminal performance Heard - NY, Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2008), Artadia Award (2006), the Joyce Award (2006), Creative Capital Grants (2002, 2004 and 2005), and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2001). Cave is the newly-appointed Stephanie and Bill Sick Professor of Fashion, Body, and Garment at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


Funding is provided by the City of Savannah’s Department of Cultural Affairs. Programs are also supported in part by the Georgia Council for the Arts. GCA also receives support from its partner agency—the National Endowment for the Arts.

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