Nick Cave

Even if it just leased its upstairs office space to Nordstrom, SAM—like every other cultural institution in town—needs popular shows. And Chicago artist Nick Cave—not the Australian rock singer!—is nothing if not a crowd-pleaser. The wildly colorful and baroque “soundsuits” gathered in his Meet Me at the Center of the Earth will be like a sugar high for younger visitors. Covered with buttons, beads, sequins, embroidery, twigs, shopping bags, wind-up toys, and more, these multi-hued suits variously suggest sports mascots, tentacled sea anemone, Chewbacca from Star Wars, every character in Monsters, Inc., and Bigfoot—if he were eyeless, square-headed, and had a basket for a mouth. The only disappointment, really, is that for a show about sound and movement (which is how these garments are played), the exhibit is rather static and quiet. (Though it also includes some videos and, less welcome, a merchandize shop.) Fortunately, there will be periodic pop-up street “invasions” that make use of Cave's ornate wearable art. Just outside the entry of this traveling show, also note the African costumes from SAM's own collection; there's a kinship to Cave's gaudy, whimsical suits. Though he says they were first created in protest of the 1992 Rodney King police beating, the exhibit seems entirely festive. Note May 5 "March to the Center of the Earth" along First Avenue. BRIAN MILLER

Thursdays, Fridays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thu., May 5, 5:30 p.m. Starts: March 10. Continues through June 5, 2011

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