Contemporary visual art is usually not concerned with craftsmanship, said William Morrow, the curator of contemporary art at the Denver Art Museum, while asking Nick Cave why his work on view at the DAM was so well crafted.
Mr. Cave said the works are made with a concern for quality because that is how he wants the work to be handled.
Nick Cave’s exhibition on the second floor of the Denver Art Museum consists of more than 20 new ‘sound suits,’ a room of sculptures that feels like a dog’s boudoir and a video room that’s more fun than many a home theater. The show appropriately coincides with the museum’s summer exhibition of fiber art, and will run from June 9 until September 22 (2013).
The artist is a finely sculpted man. His pants and the pants of his associates are all sewn in custom ways to fit the man and be extremely hip. Cave makes art, it seems to me, as an extension of his appearance. The French philosopher Roland Barth made me realize what my mother couldn’t manage to convey: that appearance is important, that how we physically manifest ourselves is not something that can be untied from ourselves or our intellect or contribution to civilization.
All, except a large wall piece, are new pieces include about 20 new sound suits, as Cave calls the costumes he makes that are sculptures when nobody is in them, and performance props when they are worn. The suits are display in two separate rooms, sorted according to their flavor: black and white or incredibly colorful. The suits in action are demonstrated in a room of videos that include a couple of small works that add more fun.
The guy obviously cares that we have a quality experience. The sculpture, and the sound suits are jam-packed with elements like so much of contemporary art. They are woven with junk, nested so densely that individual items are lost on casual glance, but available for discovery.
My theory about artists who make messy, junky sculpture can’t quite get a piece to work, so they just keep adding more, and more, messing up more and more, and not really improving the work. Cave’s work is busy, frantic even, but rises above the messy.
Each piece is beautiful in a classic way, like classical music, like Beethoven, strong, warm and bold. There are three distinct styles of Cave’s work in this show – the mocking of the YSL show the DAM did last year, with absolutely fine-tuned, black and white sound suits. Suits that on further looking have color: second side might be stitched on powder blue, red thread holds the white buttons onto an understructure that’s red or black, and face masks are made of somewhat-weathered, artificial flower covered burial wreaths.
The rooms itself is covered with a black translucent fabric sewn with buttons. Starkness is on the surface; richness comes from everywhere.