15,000 square foot Building 5 at MassMoCA offers a daunting challenge for any artist as an installation space. The gallery is the size of a football field; it’s a seductive, performative space that was originally a factory building complex built between 1870 and 1900. MassMoCA, located in North Adams, MA has 19 large gallery spaces and is one of the largest centers for contemporary visual and performing arts in America.
Nick Cave’s UNTIL is an inventive and dramatically scaled exhibit that is his largest to date and it lures you right in. Building 5 is a dazzlingly immersive environment filled to its limit. Cave describes UNTIL as being about excess, surplus, breaking things apart and renegotiating how they they function. Cave began the work as he was thinking about racism and gun violence in America. He sees the videotaped police beating of Rodney King (1991) and the recent deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Sandra Bland among others, as a part of an American illness that informs his work and evokes important discourse.
Upon entrance to the space, part of the floor is mirrored. Like confetti, ornamental reflective materials hang from ceiling to floor occupying and dominating the space. The viewer encounters vibrant complexities of seductive shimmer where darker anxieties wait to be revealed. As you make your way through a labyrinth of twisting shimmering parts bright points of light pierce and confront you disrupting your perception. Alternate visions of socio-political constructs take place upon deeper looking. Mirror and crystal reflect what Cave sees as the failing of American society in the face of an uncertain future within the context of tackling race, class and gun violence.
At the center of the work is a space Cave calls “cloudscape”, which is suspended eighteen feet in the air and is accessible four different ways by metal staircases. You ascend to a dense place richly filled with found objects including Jocko lawn jockeys. There is an endlessly abundant flow of things and ideas concerning art, philosophy, and politics.
Cave knows the burden attached to living in a world that is beautiful and reflective, and yet so heavy.
Article by Ilene Spiewak
UNTIL is on view at MassMoCA through August 2017.