Home > Art, Museums > Nick Cave SAM Exhibition

Nick Cave SAM Exhibition

Earlier this month, a new show opened at the Seattle Art Museum, Meet Me at the Center of the Earth. It consists entirely of work of the artist Nick Cave, faculty member and director of the fashion design department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. We had intended to go to one of the opening events a few weeks ago, but it conflicted with two other activities, and we chose one of the others. Fortunately, we received an invitation to tour the exhibit this past Thursday with Derrick Cartwright, the director of the Seattle Art Museum.

We assembled with other invitees in the museum’s lobby, then were ushered up two flights to the threshold of the exhibit, where Derrick talked to us about the show and about Nick Cave, making sure we understood that this Nick Cave is not one and the same with the Australian musician Nick Cave. Evidently this has been a point of on-going confusion, and perhaps disappointment. He then brought us into the exhibit’s first room.

Cave’s principal works, as you can see above, are what he calls sound suits. The website for the show explains that “Nick Cave’s wildly improbable beings are made from unusual materials that don’t often get a second life: potholders, spinning tops, sequins, buttons and thrift store sweaters. View the work in the galleries to appreciate the exquisite detail of these opulent sculptures.” I had seen some of the pictures online, but they give no sense of how wonderfully joyous the soundsuits are, how colorful and creative, with such varied textures. The mosaic of sweaters that form the first work seen in the show, a towering polar bear, is simply marvelous.

Other than the polar bear, all the suits are made to be wearable — in particular by Cave himself. Trained as a dancer with Alvin Ailey, he doesn’t just wear them. He dances in them. In one room about halfway through the exhibit, several videos are projected on the walls showing him and others performing movement or dance in the suits and giving the viewer an entirely different sense of the suits viewed statically just before. As explained at SAM’s website, “SAM is partnering with students from the Cornish College of the Arts and dancers from Spectrum Dance Theatre to bring selected suits to life in scheduled on-site performances.” Derrick described the plan a little differently. These performances will break out in unexpected places, perhaps for instance during intermission at the opera, with hints given ahead of time at the website that may allow astute readers to guess where the performances will be.

The show runs through June 5. If you’re in the area, be sure to see it.

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Categories: Art, Museums
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