Credit: Isa Giallorenzo

Nothing like an opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art to showcase the exceptional style Chicagoans have, in all their diversity. The festivities in May celebrating artist Nick Cave’s solo exhibition “Forothermore” were no exception. Body coverings were a central theme and could be appreciated on every level: on guests’ outfits in their special post-lockdown glee; on Cave’s fashion collection (as presented at the “The Color Is” gala at the DuSable Black History Museum); and, last but not least, on Cave’s breathtaking Soundsuits displayed throughout his major retrospective at the MCA, curated by Naomi Beckwith. 

The first time I ever witnessed the magic of the aforementioned Soundsuits was in 2014 at a student fashion show at the School of the Art Institute, where Cave is a professor and the chair of the fashion design department. Seeing Cave’s work at the fashion show was a memorable experience of sheer joy. 

Cave’s performance felt like a huge intergalactic party, featuring a parade of unique characters that looked, moved, and sounded like fascinating alien beings—each representing a very particular universe. Performers danced fully covered head to toe in amazingly intricate costumes, made of all kinds of unexpected materials. Cave has said that he considers his Soundsuits as a “second skin, or a suit of armor” which “erases gender, race, and class” and also regards them as “transformative objects with life-affirming potential when they are worn.” In the Nick Cave: Forothermore catalog, MCA director Madeleine Grynsztejn writes “a Soundsuit—as much as it is a beautiful sculpture adorned with some of the most vibrant colors you’ll ever see—is also a message. And what it’s saying is move and change.” 

Click through images from the events below

In addition to the Soundsuits, “Forothermore” includes a mesmerizing site-specific kinetic installation called Spinner Forest, textural sculptures, videos, and more. There are also off-site interventions connected to the show, such as Ba Boom Boom Pa Pop Pop at Art on the Mart, a video projection created by Cave and projected on the Merchandise Mart building nightly at 9:30 PM until September 7, and “Power of the Party: Chicago House and Nick Cave”, an event taking place at the DuSable on August 27.

“Power of the Party” is presented by the MCA and features Dr. Meida Teresa McNeal, the artistic and managing director of Honey Pot Performance, a Chicago-based Afro-feminist public humanities organization, and DJ Lori Branch, a pioneering force in Chicago’s house music and nightlife scenes. The event will include a discussion between McNeal and Branch about the early house music scene in Chicago and its influence on Cave’s work. According to Dr. McNeal, who, along with Branch, is part of the team that created The Chicago Black Social Culture Map, the house music parties were “the places where we created ways of gathering with our chosen family to lift ourselves up and find joy and release and strength to move forward.” 

“I see that in so much of Nick Cave’s body of work. So much of it comes from really horrible racialized experiences and trauma. But he takes those things and tries to reconfigure them as sites of pleasure, by making something beautiful out of something terrible,” she says. After their talk, Branch will perform a set inspired by Nick Cave’s art, providing a soundtrack to kick off “The Color Is,” an exhibition exploring the same themes of the similarly named gala: fashion and design objects by Cave and his brother Jack. It will be on view at the DuSable until November 27.

Video shot by Denali Casara. 

“Forothermore”
Through 10/2: Tue 10 AM-9 PM, Wed-Sun 10 AM-5 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 E. Chicago, admission and visitor information at mcachicago.org

Power of the Party: Chicago House and Nick Cave
Tue 8/27, 1 PM (talk) and 3 PM (DJ Lori Branch performance), DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center, 740 E. 56th Pl., free with registration, dusablemuseum.org

“The Color Is”
8/27-11/27, Wed-Sun 11 AM-4 PM, DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center, 740 E. 56th Pl., timed admission and visitor information at dusablemuseum.org