When I entered Jack Shainman gallery Thursday afternoon Nick Cave was finishing up a talk to his students from Chicago. Everyone listened with rapt attention as Nick stood in front of his new work, a long floor piece of antique wood boxes brimming with curios. Even though his opening was in 2 hours – at both Jack Shainman locations – Nick was relaxed and effusive. We had a brief but wonderful conversation.
His show on 24th street is called ‘RESCUE’, and features found ceramic dogs sitting on found furniture. In typical Nick Cave style; the ceramics are surrounded by his iconic adornments of crystals beaded strings dripping around metal flowers. The highly detailed porcelain dogs carry a romantic longing on their very life-like expressions. There was one work, of a particularly alert and loyal Doberman lounging on a sofa, that I could imagine owning myself, to welcome me home each day, (if only I could afford it)!
It is noted in the press release ” that more recently, the term ‘Dawg’ has played a role in hip-hop culture as a moniker for brotherhood, respect and power.” That of course adds another layer to the pleasure of looking at the opulent beauty of Nick Cave’s dream-like sculpture.
The show on 20th street is called “Made for Whites by Whites”. It has a ‘newer’ feel for him – and gets a bit more aggressive in it’s message. On the back wall, is a large star woven in wools of the three pan-African colours. Red: the blood that unites all people of Black African ancestry, and shed for liberation, black: black people whose existence as a nation, though not a nation-state, and green: the abundant natural wealth of Africa. Nick Cave puts a larger than life cast bronze ‘brotherhood’ clenched fist, on a pedestal in front of the star.
I noticed that most works in the 24th street gallery featured a bronze black hand. There are hands coming out of the wall holding hangers that support trench coats filled inside with hanging necklaces of bold and gold Bling. There are hands holding precious objects in the boxes of his floor piece. I asked Nick if the hands he used were based on his own hands. He responded with a resounding “YES!”. All the hands were cast from a mold he made of his own hands. When you think about it; the hand is the great maker of art. After all, it is the hand that wields the tools, and accomplishes the task of making art. I asked Nick why he used hands as a gesture throughout his work. He smiled and said it’s his way of showing this work is meant as an offering.
Nick Cave MADE BY WHITES FOR WHITES and RESCUE at 20th ST and 24th ST Jack Shainman Gallery NY until 11 October
Words: Lizanne Merrill © Artlyst 2014