Nick Cave Soundsuits in Motion at Kinderhook School by VOGUE
In case you hadn’t heard, upstate New York is the art world’s latest hotspot. First it was the artists who, priced out of the city, decamped from Williamsburg and the East Village for the Hudson Valley’s low rents and Rockwellian charms. Now, the gallerists have followed. The downtown dealers Zach Feuer and Joel Mesler opened their Hudson space, Retrospective, on buzzy Warren Street in January. And on Saturday, the Chelsea-based Jack Shainman Gallery unveiled its latest outpost, The School, in Kinderhook, with a live Soundsuit performance by Nick Cave. At this rate, is a Gagosian Catskills next?
“I don’t know,” Shainman said as a mix of gray-haired locals and slick day-trippers milled about the redbrick elementary school that he and his partner in the venture, the artist Carlos Vega, spent the last year and a half converting into a white-walled exhibition hall. “For me, it was a little different, because I had a weekend place here, and I just love it.” Some 20 miles from the Massachusetts border, this wooded stretch of Columbia County is only an hour’s drive from a trio of formidable institutions in the nearby Berkshires—MASS MoCA, the Clark, and the Williams College Museum of Art. And the 30,000-square-foot School can display the large-scale works that much of the gallery’s roster is now producing. “Artists like El Anatsuineed a 24-foot ceiling,” Shainman said, referring to the Ghanaian sculptor’s sprawling bottle-cap tapestries. “Sometimes we would rent space out in Bushwick, but it’s always so rushed. One morning in August, it took an hour and 45 minutes to get there. Everyone was ready to kill me! Here, if you tell them in advance that it’s a two-hour trip, and it’s really pretty, and we’ll have lunch at a great restaurant around the corner, it’s totally different.”
To create the School’s soaring ceiling heights, Spanish architect Antonio Jiménez Torrecillas excavated part of an old gymnasium that sat above a basement cafeteria, making for a dramatic entrée to the glittering Soundsuits installed by Cave in the main gallery. Upstairs, in alcoves called Classroom 1 and Principal’s Office, a preview of Cave’s latest series repurposes Americana bric-a-brac, often stereotypically racist, that he came across while trawling flea markets. (The show will officially premiere in September at Shainman’s two Manhattan locations.) Some of the assemblages—a shoeshine brush, held up to the face as a mirror—are more confrontational examinations of identity than the exuberant, shaman-esque costumes for which the artist is known. But, explained Cave, “this looking at memorabilia through the eyes of object has always been there. What’s new is working backwards and exposing what feeds the Soundsuits.”
Outside on the front lawn, a small stage was helmed by a flagpole, atop which waved David Hammons’s red, black, and green Stars and Stripes. The set appeared ready for a speech by Springfield’s Mayor Quimby, or, as Cave saw it, a school assembly. Suddenly, more than a dozen colorfully hirsute, Soundsuited performers emerged shimmying to the percussions of West African drummers. Choreographed by the Chicago-based Cave, who trained as a dancer at Alvin Ailey, these vivid apparitions in shades of magenta, cerulean, and canary brought a bit of Ouidah—by way of the South Side—to this sleepy hamlet, best known as the birthplace of the eighth president, Martin Van Buren. Afterward, former students surveyed the grounds of their reinvented alma mater, reminiscing about the basketball court, which has been transformed into an airy perimeter gallery, and the second-floor boys’ urinals, which now houses a sculpture selling for five figures. As one alum commented on the @jackshainmannyInstagram feed: “If you had told me in 1983 when I sat in Ms. McAusland’s third-grade class that anything this cool would ever happen here, I never would have believed it!”
The School is open by appointment at 25 Broad Street, Kinderhook, New York; for information, visit jackshainman.com.