Sunday, November 13, 2011

Prospect.2: Nick Cave and Joyce Scott at Newcomb


It was New York Times art critic Roberta Smith who put it best: “Whether Nick Cave's efforts qualify as fashion, body art or sculpture, and regardless of what you ultimately think of them, they fall squarely under the heading of Must Be Seen to Be Believed.” Of course, Smith never lived in a city with our Mardi Gras Indians, the next closest thing to Cave's mixed media Soundsuits, top, but she's right, their presence is redolent of exotic energies from the far reaches of the imagination if not the planet. A former dancer turned instructor at the Chicago Art Institute, Cave made his early suits out of twigs before moving on to more colorful materials such as beads, buttons, sequins and feathers--a look not unlike Big Chief Victor Harris' striking Fi Yi Yi Indian suits at the New Orleans Museum of Art during Prospect.1. According to former Prospect director Dan Cameron, Cave does indeed include Mardi Gras Indians among his influences. Their shamanic presence also recalls African ceremonial regalia, and they are also worn in live performances, which makes them fine companion pieces for Joyce Scott's beaded sculptures in the adjacent gallery.

Also a performance artist deeply influenced by African and African American traditions, Baltimore- based Scott is a creator of bead sculptures that are decorative yet acerbic, often beautiful yet biting. A critic of all forms of violence, institutional as well as random, and all depredations against women, Scott knows how to be seductive without pulling her punches. Cobalt, Yellow Circles, above, is a deeply hued maze with floating figures not unlike a Nigerian Yoruba bead work version of a Navajo dream catcher. Nearby, a gnarly beaded head emerges from a green glass, pistol-shaped bottle filled with bullets. Titled Head Shot, right, it draws you in then creeps you out, a tactic echoed in reverse in the more enigmatic Sexecution I, bottom. That mix of seduction and revulsion, beauty and beastliness, is what is known as the human condition, and what Scott and Cave do with it makes this a show worth seeing. ~Bookhardt

PROSPECT.2: Works by Nick Cave and Joyce J. Scott for Prospect.2, Through Jan. 29, Newcomb Art Gallery, Tulane University, 865-5328;