Nick Cave @ the MCA

Multidisciplinary artist Nick Cave’s career-spanning retrospective, Forothermore, at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Chicago took its final breath as the exhibit wrapped up on October 2, 2022. Cave’s work was show-stopping due to the sheer breadth of mediums he uses combined with the poignant messages at the heart of each of his pieces stemming from his experiences navigating the world as a queer black man. 

There is no shortage of elicited emotion as you move through the massive exhibit. What Cave excels at most is creating art that draws you in with its pretty exterior then sits in your stomach with its heavy undertones. Take the beautiful Spinner Forest for example – a dazzling collection of kinetic spinners that gently move and reflect light in the sunny atrium of the MCA. This collection of shiny ornaments is the starting point of the exhibit and is nothing short of mesmerizing. At face value, you are witnessing a whimsical display of shapes and colors that you get to walk through. There are mobiles comprised of peace signs, sunbursts, stars. Look a little closer, however, and you’ll also start seeing tear drops, guns, bullets. The motif of investigating nuance to reveal more somber truths is interspersed throughout the exhibit.

Cave’s infamous Soundsuits continue down this thematic path and are not to be missed. No two suits are the same, towering over museum patrons with their range of colors and textures. They’re magnificent costumes that you could spend hours looking at without any context. But the context is what really packs a punch and cannot be extracted from the suits.

Cave says about his suits “I was making this sort of protective skin, something to protect my spirit.” These elaborately protective shields emphasize the need to work within one’s otherness in a way that transforms the sensation from one of alienation to one of power. Cave has been making these suits since 1992 and each one allows visitors a chance to explore a moment in time. 

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