Curated by Risa Puleo
April 21 – July 12, 2020
Reception with the artist: April 22, 7 – 9pm
MOCA North Miami is pleased to present the most comprehensive survey to date of work by Raúl de Nieves (born in Michoacan, 1983; resides in New York City), which reconnects the artist’s exuberant material sensibility to his roots in punk music and performance, devotional ritual, and celebratory queerness.
De Nieves’ work investigates decadence, desire, and divinity in relation to material, emotional, and spiritual realms. The artist is inspired by his childhood in Michoacan, Mexico, where public religious rituals and private devotional acts included elaborate costuming, performances, and theatrical components; as well as by queer punk scenes in San Diego, San Francisco, and New York where he found his artistic voice. Whether working in collaboration with other artists and musicians, or as a solo practitioner making labor-intensive paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations, and environments, de Nieves articulates an aesthetic of abundance through an economy of means. Elaborate anthropomorphic figures shimmer and seduce from afar, but a closer look reveals that they are encrusted in beads, crystals, plastic jewels, sequins, cardboard, and other readily-available items that the artist transforms through a laborious, ritual-like practice.
The exhibition’s title came about through ongoing conversations between the artist and curator Risa Puleo. The idea of the journey, such as the Fool’s Journey of the Tarot card sequence or the archetypal narratives at the root of oft-repeated stories, is important to de Nieves and manifests in objects such the life-size carousel which will occupy MOCA’s exhibition space. Circling endlessly in a performance of fantasy and delirium, the carousel motif suggests the cosmic time of the Eternal Return. Obsidian is a volcanic stone that was used by the Nauha people of pre-Columbian Mexico as a spiritual portal used to speak with ancestors. Smoky and obscure, one must look at obsidian’s reflectivity obliquely (through it instead of at it) to shift the mirror reflection into a portal interacting with those who came before. For de Nieves, art-making is a process of creating a mirror for yourself; it is a tool of awareness and a means of externalizing an interior state which offers the possibility of transmuting emotional energy into physical energy and moving it from the body into material containers in the world. The ritual-like process by which de Nieves makes his opulent, anthropomorphic creatures is the means by which he imbues materials with spiritual essence and power. Such power is felt throughout the exhibition and embodied in works such as the artist’s signature stained glass installations and performances, and across a range of genres in which the artist channels alternate dimensions.
One of the most exciting artists working in the United States today, de Nieves’s young career has been prolific. This exhibition is the first to consider the symbiosis between de Nieves’s solo sculptural work and collaborative performances, including his band Haribo and his operatic performances. In doing so, Eternal Return and The Obsidian Heart offers a holistic look at the ways in which the artist rejoins the spiritual with the material in contemporary consumer culture.
MOCA North Miami’s exhibitions and programs are made possible with the continued support of the North Miami Mayor and Council and the City of North Miami, the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners.
About the artist:
RAÚL DE NIEVES is a multimedia artist, performer, and musician, whose wide-ranging practice investigates notions of beauty and transformation. De Nieves’ visual symbolism draws on both classical Catholic and Mexican vernacular motifs to create his own unique mythology, which often challenges and explores themes of sexuality, the human body, and individual and public histories. Recent solo exhibitions include those at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland; Company, New York; Apalazzo, Brescia and Freedman Fitzpatrick, Los Angeles. Additional group shows include those at K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong; Swiss Institute, New York; New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans; The Museum of Art and Design, New York; the Zabludowicz Collection, London as well the 2017 Whitney Biennial and MoMA PS1’s 2015 Greater New York. De Nieves has performed at Documenta 14, Performa 13, MoMA PS1, ICA Philadelphia, The Watermill Center, The Kitchen, Artist’s Space and numerous other venues. Forthcoming solo exhibitions include those at Company, New York; and ICA, Boston. His work is included in public collections at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. De Nieves was born in 1983 in Michoacan, Mexico and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
About the curator:
RISA PULEO is an independent curator and critic. Her exhibition Monarchs: Brown and Native Contemporary Artists in the Path of the Butterfly, was curated for Bemis Center for Contemporary Art during her year as curator-in-residence. The exhibition traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami; Blue Star Contemporary and Southwest School of Art in San Antonio; and The Nerman Art Museum in Overland Park, Kansas. Puleo’s exhibition Walls Turned Sideways: Artists Confront the Justice System opened at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston in 2018 and traveled to Tufts University Art Gallery in 2020. Other exhibitions have been hosted by the Leslie Lohman Museum in New York City; Franklin Street Works in Stamford, CT; Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City, and more. She was a guest curator of Artpace San Antonio’s International Artist-in-Residence Spring 2018 cycle: Rafa Esparza, Kapwani Kiwanga, and Carlos Rosales-Silva. Puleo has master’s degrees from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and Hunter College and is a doctoral candidate in Northwestern University’s art history program. She has written for Art in America, Art Papers, Art 21, Asia Art Pacific, Hyperallergic.com, Modern Painters and other art publications.