I’ve been a bit of a Brooklyn hermit lately, spending as little time as possible in the city, sheltering myself from the traffic, noise, and anxiety installed into each footstep taken on the island. I was taken aback by a trip around downtown last week following a gallery hike trail from chinatown to soho to the lower east side to the west village, stunned by the tranquility instilled amidst the stink and chaos, my eyes wandering from painting to building to sculpture to bootleg gucci bag seller, absorbing the cultural experience that was unexpectedly refreshed and renewed as a result of this brief hiatus. I was an onlooker to both the still and moving, dead and alive, and this intermingling of experience makes for a poetic everyday/artistic experience.
That being the sappy intro to a conversation I’d like to hold about 4 sculpture shows, 1 of which was not part of the hiking trip. The following artists work within this realm of body consciousness, or bodily experience, physical real time present-ness, or what have you. Whether it be the wearable sculptures of Nick Cave, the illusionistic abstract merry go round squares of Bruce Nauman, finely crafted industrial paper tombs of Jane South, or the deceivingly calculated residues of misshapen measurements and pseudo artifacts of human intervention by Trenton Duerksen and Aaron King, these sculptures had me lurking, circulating, listening, and self-comparing to the point of physical and contextual dizziness. Let’s dive in.
I have to admit, I first thought Nick Cave was, you know, Nick Cave. Sound suits and Nick Cave = duped into thinking it was the musician. My apologizes. Doesn’t make these any less valid mind you. The artist has been around: a muscular Alvin Ailey veteran and fashion designer, Cave has every so successfully combined elements from his experience and history to create this stupendously lush, mystifying, ominously luxurious, vibrating costume/sculptures, currently up at Jack Shainman.
The main exhibition space serves as a runway platform, with furry soundsuits lined along the wall on one end, and a U shaped platform displaying a vast colorful array of colors and materials from knitted hats and sequins, to ceramic tchotchkes and long beads. They are taller than life, with elongated enclosed head sections that would cover the wearer from head to toe, leaving him anonymous and void of cultural labeling. They are beyond larger than life, a childhood fantasy gone awry, a tension between that monster under the bed and the untouchable worn only once treasured dress your mom keeps in the far corner of the closet.
They are an inexplicably seamless mix and match of kitsch and rare collection, the accumulation of vintage tops exploding from a donned headdress, a congregation of ceramic birds laid out like a chandelier, restricting what movement there would be if the costume was worn. Its function as a wearable costume is contradicted by the immobility of these objects that constrict both movement and vision, flexibility and expression. The suits are not a means TO function and significance, but rather THE means of cultural, physical, spiritual, political, psychological relevance. I especially love the collective elements of these suits, the gathering of objects, the laborious archiving and collaging of myriad textiles and decorative add ons, and the end product of bringing them all together in this all encompassing compartmentalized utopias. They cover such a wide range of interpretations linking african ceremonial aesthetic to fancy shmansy fashion show quality, racial political disconnects with individual abstracted modern movements, historical memorabilia with imaginary childplay, I really can’t say enough to justify the conceptual and aesthetic multiplicity of these suits.
On a side note, I couldn’t help think of the creepy, clumsy evil do-gooder spirit from my all time favorite movie, Spirited Away.