SPEAKING THE TRUTH: Less than one year before his first retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Nick Cave, the civic-minded visual artist best known for his fantastical Soundsuits, made his big-screen debut this week with his “Truth Be Told” public art exhibit.
Projected on a full-motion digital tower at 8775 Sunset Boulevard, the work was created in collaboration with artist Bob Faust and was commissioned for West Hollywood, as part of Arts on Sunset.
The dual-screen video, spanning about 50 feet on the west side and 30 feet on the east side, features a moving figure, wearing a sequined Soundsuit. Its face is concealed, peering out from the facade of an abacus. It moves with defensive body language, as the words “Truth Be Told” appear in black and move in and out across the white frame. The frame changes to red and the phrase is repeated in repetition, filling up the entire space.
“At a time of so much disinformation and racist beliefs finally surfacing, it is more important than ever to speak truth to power, and in many cases to ourselves,” said Cave in a post about the exhibit on Instagram.
The first iteration of “Truth Be Told” was made in reaction to the murder of George Floyd, installed on Jack Shainman Gallery’s The School of Kinderhook in New York. New versions of the digital billboards are being shown this month throughout the U.S. including in Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Boston, while the West Hollywood exhibit is on view through Aug. 30.
Meanwhile, Cave’s “Forothermore” retrospective at the MCA begins May 14, 2022.
Billed as the most comprehensive survey of Cave’s work to date, the exhibit will feature more than a dozen Soundsuits, including a new series of the embellished garments, titled “Soundsuits 9:29;” an installation with thousands of moving kinetic spinners hanging in the museum’s atrium, and works never seen before. Other highlights include a room-sized video installation that will surround viewers with projections of flowing water, creatures and patterns, the artist’s recent sculptures of bronze hands, head and limbs and objects found on the streets, such as shotgun shells.
Cave designed his Soundsuits — whose influences include African shaman, Haitian voodoo dolls, the Paris couture shows and George Clinton concerts — to hide gender, race and class and force the viewer to look at something without judgement.
“It gets back to differences,” Cave said during an interview in 2015. “How do we find ways to embrace our differences? You’re looking at this hybrid human, yet it’s foreign, yet it has this sense of authority. How do we come to that and be open to a different kind of acceptance? Psychology is tapping into multiple ways in which we encounter the world around us.”
The artist created his first Soundsuit in 1992, one year after the Rodney King police beating.
“That was the initiator that got me to work in this medium,” Cave said. “What does it feel like to feel less than, profiled? I don’t know that from my perspective although I’m a Black male.”