Critics’ Picks

Nick Cave, Crystal Cloudscape, 2015–16, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view.

Nick Cave, Crystal Cloudscape, 2015–16, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view.


Nick Cave

245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh Redfern
November 23, 2018–March 3, 2019

Walking into the cavernous space that holds Nick Cave's “Until”—as in, innocent until proven guilty—those unfamiliar with the artist’s work might not suspect that the exhibition is about racial profiling, gender politics, and gun violence in the United States. Then we see the cues-the small cutouts of guns, teardrops, and bullets that make up the diorama spanning the length and width of the entrance hall, Kinetic Spinner Forest, 2016, and the slogans of peace and power in Beaded Cliff Wall, 2015–16, in the neighboring room. Still, these works are of a whimsical, inviting nature. In Beaded Cliff Wall, viewers can walk beneath monumental screens of pony beads meticulously tied together with shoelaces. Standing before Flow/Blow, 2016, a work composed of thousands of strands of silver, blue, and black Mylar, one is hit with gusts of artificial wind. These sculptural works are full of life but inspired by death: a response to the killings of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown. In a recent interview, Cave said the exhibition arose from the question, “Is there racism in heaven?”

Crystal Cloudscape, 2015–16, the most astonishing piece in Cave's topsy-turvy world, is reminiscent of a grand chandelier lit from within. Above it, Cave has placed thousands of knickknacks culled from yard sales and vintage shops. Ceramic birds, bulbous golden pigs, gramophone horns, flowers, and blackface figurines are visible as one scales the stairs adjoining the work. The most sensitive piece is also the most brutal: Hy-Dyve, 2016, a video installation that displays the heads of decapitated chickens. With deafening plunks, the heads appear to fall from the sky, across screens that curve around a wooden surveillance station similar to those used by lifeguards on the beach-or guards in a prison tower. Here, the fraught, mesmerized gaze Cave elsewhere invited appears to turn back on the viewer, whose feeling of spectatorship may be replaced with one of being watched.