When Nick Cave arrived at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1987, he was the only African American in his class. He felt as out of place on the idyllic suburban campus in Bloomfield Hills as a penguin on the prairie.Cave escaped as often as he could to Detroit, where he was able to reaffirm his cultural identity within the rich texture of black life in the city, especially the dance and music scenes."That was the first time I had to look at myself as a black male, and it was a struggle to find my place," said the 56-year-old Chicago-based artist. "Detroit allowed Cranbrook to work for me, to find a balance."
A WRITHING CENTIPEDE WROUGHT in hammered brass and a gold necklace evoking the decayed, wilted sepals of a plant are among the jewelry designs on view in the Cranbrook Art Museum’s exhibition Bent, Cast, and Forged: The Jewelry of Harry Bertoia. To celebrate the centennial of the artist’s birth, the institution has organized the first museum exhibition devoted exclusively to his jewelry.
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“Detroit was such a pivotal part of my time at school,” says the artist Nick Cave who attended Cranbrook in nearby Bloomfield Hills. When his alma mater approached him to do exhibition there, he told them, “I would only do the show if I could do some work in Detroit. They were really on board.” The show is a monumental homecoming for the sculptor who now lives in Chicago. Partnering with a local high school, dance academies and grass roots non-profits, Cave dreamt up an entire summer of programming, which will activate seemingly every corner of the city with vibrant performances. “We’re bringing the work to Detroit, but hiring the city to build the project,” explains Cave.
When the Cranbrook Art Museum asked to host his inaugural solo outing in Michigan, the artist and dancer — and Cranbrook Academy of Art alum — Nick Cave agreed, on one condition: “I said, I will only do it if I can do work in Detroit.” For the uninitiated, the school’s campus sits about 20 miles away from the downtown area, Cave’s first lesson upon his arrival in the late ’80s. “Girl, thank God for the city,” he says. “I got here and I was the sole black person, so Detroit saved my life. I became connected to this circle of creative people.” He recalls a fearlessness to the way they came together and fed off of one another. “I don’t know if I could have done Cranbrook without Detroit,” he avers. “That’s why this is so important; I’m reconnecting with the city that really allowed me to create a balance in my higher education.”
“Thank God for Detroit,” exclaims Nick Cave as he lays out the plans and inspiration for his takeover of the City. His trademark Soundsuits have already invaded Eastern Market, the Michigan Assembly Plant and the Fisher Building for photo shoots and promotional activities, with the main event, Nick Cave: Here Hear, opening to the public this weekend at Cranbrook Art Museum. But Cave’s art and community events transcend far beyond Cranbrook’s Bloomfield Hills environs, into Detroit’s Riverfront and Brightmoor neighborhood, for an interactive, participatory exhibition unlike any the museum has produced.
A few months ago, artist Nick Cave caused a stir of excitement when he returned to his native Detroit to photograph a series of dramatic art installations.Now, his fans will finally be able to see the results of that effort when his exhibition “Nick Cave: Here Hear” opens at Cranbrook Art Museum this weekend.Cave, a noted sculptor and performance artist, graduated from Cranbrook Art Academy in 1989. In March, he returned to his alma mater to start his photo tour of metro Detroit, which included stops in the Brightmoor neighborhood, Mexicantown and Eastern Market, along with nine other places.
Supported by a stack of storage boxes in Shed 5 of Detroit’s Eastern Market one humid morning, the artist Nick Cave steps gingerly into a suit of clipped twigs, one leg at a time. Crouching at his feet, two assistants adjust the jagged hem of each trouser leg while Bob Faust, Cave’s studio director and right-hand man, lifts the waist and draws the suspenders tightly across his chest. Struggling to co-ordinate their movements, the team of three hauls the garment’s top half — a towering assemblage of sticks weighing more than 50lb — above Cave’s head, lowering it over his face and settling it on his shoulders. Faust takes his hand and leads him outside; like a splintery Chewbacca, Cave lumbers blindly through rows of poppies to a small grove of potted pines, the suit’s improbable wooden surface clacking as he moves.
Ahead of the opening, the artist posted a trippy preview video on YouTube, showing his Soundsuits dancing -- and standing still -- at various iconic spots around Detroit. The video features some high-energy movement, as well as eerie shots near urban decay.
Nick Cave is taking over Detroit. Next Saturday, June 20, will see the debut of Here Hear, the largest show of the American artist’s work to date, at the Cranbook Art Museum. The weekend will kick off a string of events that runs through the rest of the year. Among the Cave-planned celebrations are a performance called Up Right: Detroit and a series of Dance Labs, both in July; and a procession of dozens of Cave’s life-size horse sculptures traipsing through the city on September 26 (manned by high-school dancers, no less). All this will then culminate with a project called Figure This: Detroit, which will take place in the city’s magisterial Masonic Temple on October 4.
A new exhibition at the Cranbrook Art Museum, Detroit, casts light on the creative world of American sculptor, dancer and performance artist Nick Cave. The 7,000 square-foot solo exhibition features a large selection of Cave’s famous “Soundsuits”, a series of African-inspired colorful sculptures that merge art, fashion and sound. Standing somewhere between performative sculptures and ritual costumes, Cave’s Soundsuits are conceived as an emotional shield that protects one’s race or gender, while still allowing him to express his individuality. The exhibition, which is titled “Here Hear”, will also include newly commissioned artworks, a site-specific wall-based tapestry inspired by the artist’s childhood memories of contemplating the night sky, a series of video works and a selection of his recent sculptures.
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