Friday, November 21, 2014

Nick Cave's "Made for Whites by Whites" at Jack Shainman Gallery

It's strange how many Art World literate folks (most are more literate than I) still confuse/conflate Nick Cave, the American dancer and conceptual artist with Nick Cave, the Australian rocker and writer.  Just putting it out there so you can Google it.
The American conceptual artist Nick Cave's current show at Jack Shainman is comprised of sculpture built around black-face ephemera hand-collected by the artist at antique fairs and swap meets. Aiming to "rehabilitate the problematic, loaded object and find a place of relevance and empowerment through reuse," these objects are carefully arranged in a matter not dissimilar to the curio shops from which they were selected.  I found the overall not dissimilar, either.

Feelings of morbid curiosity, mingled with some historical confrontation and a dose of vintaged preciousness are not transformed by the elevation to art market from antique market. Instead they are amplified, aestheticized, and perhaps sanitized, sometimes to a disquieting affect.

More often than not, though, the careful curation and construction does little towards rehabilitation.  The use of such charged objects is an obvious way to generate emotive force, and the enjoyment of the show too easy.  Recontextualizing does not do the work of this show.  It is the aura objects themselves, doing what they always do- fascinate, disgust, and exploit.

1 comment:

  1. "elevation to art market from antique market" - that rolls off the tongue quite well. And it's catchy. Although i am familiar with Nick Cave, the musician and Nick Cave the artist, I can't help but shake some sort of sense of the punk quality of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds with the sort of tacky put it together "punk" antique sense of Nick Cave the artist's craftsmanship. I know it may be a loose connection, but the alternative music aesthetic is there. I get the sense of amateurishness in the visual artist's work, coupled with melancholy and a deeper soul penetrating "aura" as you say and a mopeyness of themes. I like what you say about how the pieces seem to have objects that are arranged not too dissimilar to how they were arranged in the curio shops from which they were selected. Almost like a readymade of antique culture just re-interpreted and alluding to the disappearance of black influence on the objects themselves or how black people have their essence in the objects yet it's mainly whites who buy the shit.