"Meet Me at the Center of the Earth"

Cave's art is a fusion of fashion, body art, and sculpture so imaginative that it might possess transformational qualities
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Nick Cave, boggling

PREVIEW This collection of "soundsuits" by Nick Cave (the Chicago artist, not the Australian musician) is the most anticipated show of the season. If, as this paper's D. Scot Miller has observed, Afro-surrealism is in the air, then Cave's art — a fusion of fashion, body art, and sculpture so imaginative that it might possess transformational qualities — is a prime example. His wearable constructions are eye-boggling counterparts to the Afro-surreal music of figures both present (Chelonis R. Jones) and newly revived-from-the past (Wicked Witch). Cave's art also possesses aural qualities that won't be evident until the show opens. A former dancer with Alvin Ailey and the current chair of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's fashion program, he's also collaborating with choreographer Ronald K. Brown on some performances in May.

Cave's soundsuits arrive in the Bay Area as a ceremonial contemporary extension from the fabulous but nostalgic European fashion on display in the de Young Museum's Yves Saint Laurent show. In fact, the most bizarre and audacious of that exhibition's pieces — a 1965 bridal gown that resembles an intricate cocoon or sock — might as well be an old colonial relative of Cave's wearable works, which are constructed from a wide variety of natural and artificial material. These acid-trip Bigfoot creatures and dancing rainbow phallus totems are fun, but they kick. Cave made his first soundsuit in response to the Simi Valley aesthetics of the Rodney King verdict, and in an older project he rescued racist lawn jockeys, turning them into figures of promise and potential.

MEET ME AT THE CENTER OF THE EARTH Sat/28 through July 5, $3-$6 (free first Tues). Opening reception Fri/27, 8-11 p.m., $12-$15. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF. (415) 978-ARTS. www.ybca.org

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