Nick Cave and His “Forothermore”


When you hear the name Nick Cave, what do you think of? Most people think of the Australian singer, but did you know that it is also the name if a prominent American artist? Nick Cave is an African-American artist based in Chicago, Illinois. He is known for his avant-garde and symbolic sculptures, and his various performances around the country. His most recognizable work, the soundsuits are indistinguishably his own. They use several types of fabrics and materials to create a suit that obscures race, gender, and other identities, providing voices to those who may have been ignored otherwise. Cave, himself, often performs in them, working together with fellow artists, choreographers and dancers to produce community celebrations.

One of Nick Cave’s Soundsuit performances

I was introduced to Nick Cave while visiting the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. The whole third floor was dedicated to his work. We entered into an open hall filled with holographic mobiles. Through the walkway was a dark stretched room where you could hear the rustle of the suit’s fringes as someone performed. Outside of this were more loud colors and crowded sculptures, where also his first Soundsuit was placed. Interestingly, it was made of short brown sticks, and not the usual colorful furs and jewels that characterize his art. According to Cave, it was created in response to the Rodney King beatings in 1991, a terrible case of police violence. Rodney King, drunk while driving, was pulled over by the cops somewhere on the highway, ordered to lie on the ground, and beaten while lying on the pavement. Miraculously, he survived, and King would later testify to manhandling, threatening, kicking, stomping, and beating. Cave fell into a depression at this news, and said that this was when he began working on the first Soundsuit, subconsciously, weaving together sticks while sitting on a park bench, until, eventually, he had a full armor.

In the museum’s exhibition, Nick Cave wrote how his artwork was dedicated to spreading awareness around black struggles in America, like police violence, poverty, and discrimination. While his early work could be characterized as slightly pessimistic, despite the loud colors, he decidedly shifted away from focusing solely on black struggles to focusing on black excellence, while still retaining his criticism. Many of his sculptures depict a black man’s hand holding flowers, displaying kindness in the face of persecution.

Here are some of the pictures I took from the exhibition:

This one is titled “Hustle Coat”. It is meant to celebrate the “bling” aesthetic of marginalized communities, who “insist on glittering visibility, no matter their economic condition.” This work aims to give understanding to those, like us in Hampton, who may not have had a lot of experience with “side hustling” and its culture; especially its importance to black American culture.



This one was untitled. It was one of my favorite from the exhibition, because of its simplicity. The object that the hands are holding is a carnival mallet from the 1900’s. The head is a 20th century caricature of a black man. It displays America’s history of viewing black Americans not as people, but as objects, without giving regard to their suffering.


A·mal·gam. Nick Cave’s solution to the issue of public Confederate statues.
The Soundsuits from in the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art.











If you have not seen Nick Cave’s art in person, I cannot recommend enough visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Viewing his artwork reformed my view on our country, its issues, and the nuances of race. If you cannot see it in person, make sure to take a look online and educate yourself about his work!