Installation view of Yokohama Triennale, 2020. Photo by Keita Otsuka. Photo courtesy of Organizing Committee for Yokohama Triennale.

Introducing Nick Cave, our next atrium artist

Remai Modern’s atrium is undergoing a huge transformation this year with the installation of a large-scale work by Chicago-based artist Nick Cave. The work, titled Spinner Forest, 2020, is made up of strands of thousands of wind spinners that will cascade from the ceiling and envelop the staircase from Level 1 to Level 2.

Spinner Forest is a striking work when seen from afar, creating a meditative and mesmerizing constellation of shapes, colour and movement. But it reveals more the closer you get. Within each spinning mobile are shapes that comment on gun violence, specifically in Cave’s home city. Alongside the concentric shapes most commonly seen in these popular lawn decorations, the spinners also contain the outlines of guns, bullets and teardrops.

Spinner Forest has been generously gifted to the museum by the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation and helps to mark our five-year anniversary.

Due to the to the scale and complexity of the work, installation is taking place over multiple weeks in October and November. This process allows visitors the unique opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at how major installations come together thanks to the skill and hard work of Remai Modern’s team. This major job also includes deinstalling the work Four Times Sol LeWitt Upside Down — Version Point to Point by Haegue Yang, which has been on view in the space since the museum opened in 2017. The work will remain part of Remai Modern’s collection.

Read on to learn more about the artist behind this monumental work.

From suits to spinners

Early in his career, Cave became known for his Soundsuits, elaborate costumes which hide the identity of the wearer. The first one was made in 1992, after the beating of Rodney King by the Los Angeles Police Department. Disguising race, gender and class, the suits also connect to Cave’s experience of being the only minority in his graduate studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. Cave reflects on that experience and the creation of his Soundsuits in the video below.

Cave has worked in a range of mediums and materials, exhibiting installations and performance works internationally. In 2016, his largest exhibition to date was titled Until. For this project, curator Denise Markonish asked for a show without Soundsuits. It was at this exhibition that Cave debuted an early iteration of Spinner Forest (then titled Kinetic Spinner Forest). Made with 16,000 wind spinners, Cave combined both darkness and glory in the work. Read the full interview below for more:

For the podcast lovers: Listen to Nick Cave’s interview with Bad at Sports, a midwest arts journalism group. He discusses his survey exhibition Forothermore, which was on view at MCA Chicago in 2022.

Can’t get enough? The New York Times did a long-form article on Cave’s entire career.

Further Reading
About Nick Cave

Nick Cave (b. 1959, Fulton, MO; lives and works in Chicago, IL) is an artist, educator and foremost a messenger, working between the visual and performing arts through a wide range of mediums including sculpture, installation, video, sound and performance. Cave is well known for his Soundsuits, sculptural forms based on the scale of his body, initially created in direct response to the police beating of Rodney King in 1991. Soundsuits camouflage the body, masking and creating a second skin that conceals race, gender and class, forcing the viewer to look without judgment. They serve as a visual embodiment of social justice that represent both brutality and empowerment.

Throughout his practice, Cave has created spaces of memorial through combining found historical objects with contemporary dialogues on gun violence and death, underscoring the anxiety of severe trauma brought on by catastrophic loss. The figure remains central as Cave casts his own body in bronze, an extension of the performative work so critical to his oeuvre. Cave reminds us, however, that while there may be despair, there remains space for hope and renewal. From dismembered body parts stem delicate metal flowers, affirming the potential of new growth. Cave encourages a profound and compassionate analysis of violence and its effects as the path towards an ultimate metamorphosis. While Cave’s works are rooted in our current societal moment, when progress on issues of global warming, racism and gun violence (both at the hands of citizens and law enforcement) seem maddeningly stalled, he asks how we may reposition ourselves to recognize the issues, come together on a global scale, instigate change, and ultimately, heal.

Spinner Forest opens at Remai Modern on November 30, 2022.