Nick Cave: Rescue places three opulent sculptures by Cave in conversation with selections by the artist from PAFA’s historic permanent collection.

Cave’s “Rescue” series from 2013 glorifies found ceramic dogs on thrones of discarded flea-market objects. Perched on ordinary chairs and antique armoires, the dogs become masters of their kitschy miniature universes, which Cave creates with cages bedecked in beads, ceramic birds, metal flora, and crystals. These highly decorated armatures connect the dogs to the long tradition in Western art history and PAFA’s collection of symbolically associating canines with aristocracy.

The dogs also embody loyalty, fidelity, and playfulness. Cave also contrasts these traditionally white Western concepts of social status with the contemporary use of the term “dawg,” which is prevalent in hip-hop culture and a signifier of respect and brotherhood.

Cave’s invocation of both the historical and contemporary connotations embedded within dog symbolism pose challenging questions concerning the forging of power through symbolism, cultural knowledge, and ornamentation.