I finally made it up to North Adams, Massachusetts at the end of August to catch Nick Cave's Until at Mass MoCA (1040 MASS MoCA Way) before it closed on Monday, September 4th.
The Chicago artist is best know for his Soundsuits—elaborate, sound-producing, wearable sculptures (see here and here). His installation Until was informed by the deaths of African-American men in recent years, including Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown. The word "until" plays on the phrase, "innocent until proven guilty," or in some cases, "guilty until proven innocent," the exhibit's notes state. Until addresses gun violence, gun control laws, race, and gender politics in today's world.
Situated in an 18,000-square-foot gallery space, visitors entered the installation through a "dense sculptural field" composed of thousands of metallic, wind-spinning lawn ornaments strung from ceiling to floor. Among the whimsical, sparkly shapes, starbursts, and rainbows dizzyingly spinning around are several shiny cut-outs of guns.
At the end of the forest of wind-spinners, visitors were greeted by a giant cloud made of chandeliers and thousands of crystals. Visitors could climb up four steep, yellow step-ladders to spy an elaborate secret garden jam-packed with birds, animals, knick-knacks, flowers, and "black-face lawn jockeys." According to the show's notes, Cave had been "thinking about gun violence and racism colliding," which led him to wonder, "Is there racism in heaven? That’s how this piece came about,” the artist told the New York Times.
After peering into Cave's interpretation of heaven,visitors encountered a psychedelic, rainbow-colored, hand-woven, tent-like structure composed with shoelaces and "hundreds of thousands of colorful pony beads." According to Mass MoCA, Cave used 16,000 wind-spinners; millions of plastic pony beads; thousands of ceramic birds, fruits, and animals; 13 golden pigs; more than 10 miles of crystals; 24 chandeliers; 17 cast-iron lawn jockeys; and 1 fiberglass crocodile for this breathtaking, immersive work.
Cave's installation also served as a "community forum," hosting a variety of performers such as singers, dancers, and poets, throughout its time at MoCA.
Mass MoCA also boasts nine James Turrell pieces on view in a long-term exhibition called Into the Light. The works span the artist's career, and Turrell has designed a Skyspace specifically for the institution that will be housed inside an abandoned water tank located on MoCA's outdoor concert field—definitely something to look forward to! (Unfortunately, photos were not allowed in the Turrell galleries.)
Launched in 1999, Mass MoCA is a beautiful 26-building campus on 16-acres of land that exhibits indoor and outdoor work including dance, film, music, painting, photography, sculpture, theater, and "new, boundary-crossing works of art that defy easy classification," according to the institution's website. Additionally, much of the work shown in the bright, massive gallery spaces and stages, or outdoors at their multiple, late 19th-century courtyards, is made onsite "during extended fabrication and rehearsal residencies" that attract an impressive roster of established and up-and-coming artists from all around the world.
During our visit, Mass MoCA also had on view exhibits by Sol LeWitt, Robert Rauschenberg, Jenny Holzer, and Laurie Anderson, among many others. I wish I had more time—I was there for a little over 3 hours and easily could have spent another 3 wandering around the vast campus and exploring its many buildings and additional exhibits.
Mass MoCA is absolutely worth the 2.5-hour drive from Boston (about 3.5 from NYC). I will definitely be back! Learn more at MassMoCA.org.