Nick Cave is becoming a master of the massive exhibition format. Quick on the heels of closing an 22,000-square-foot interactive forest of sculpture at Mass MOCA, he commands a space more than three times that size in “The Let Go” at Park Avenue Armory’s Wade Thompson Drill Hall, beginning June 7. Visitors can dance amid custom lighting, live DJs and singers, and kinetic sculpture. The centerpiece is a 100-foot-long curtain of colorful Mylar streamers that shimmies through the cavernous space from an aerial conveyor belt. The Mylar snake is programmed to confront you. You may choose to respond by dancing.
“The Let Go” is a refreshingly joyous concept for an artist whose sculptures are best known for their critiques of gun violence and racism in the U.S. and in his hometown, Chicago. Even Cave’s dazzling Soundsuits, which will be activated in a performance of new, site-specific choreography during the installation, were borne as metaphoric armor in response to notorious police abuse in the nineties. “I’m thinking about ways to create space that allows us to release our frustrations,” says Cave of his Armory takeover. “It’s a creative platform where we can release our anger.” “The Let Go” is an homage to the nightclubs and queer safe spaces that offer escape and community, where partying is a political expression.
The activation coincides with Cave’s seventh solo exhibition at Jack Shainman Gallery (opening May 17). Titled “Weather or Not,” the show debuts tondo (circular wall weavings), which appear like abstract patterns but that draw inspiration from catastrophic weather maps and brain scans of traumatized gun violence victims. “Those devastations affect the physical self and the psychic self,” Cave says. “[They] can change your personality.” On their surfaces, the 10 colorful weavings are shimmering and inviting. “They’re beautiful but alarming at the same time.”
“There is an urgency right now,” Cave says of his new works. “As artists we need to remain very present out here in the world. We need to find ways to unify people.”
Below, peek inside Cave’s Chicago studio, and get an exclusive first look at his new works for “Weather or Not,” debuting in New York this May.