Raúl De Nieves Exhibition at Museum Of Contemporary Art, North Miami

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By: Gino R. Campodónico

Raúl de Nieves, a prolific Mexican multimedia artist, performer and musician, is bringing his unique art to Miami via a solo museum exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (MOCA), representing the most comprehensive display of his work to date. The young, queer, Brooklyn-based artist, who describes his art as “personal, beautiful, dreamlike and celebratory,” investigates notions of beauty and transformation through his art, creating his own mythology through his visual symbolism. Raúl has exhibited his work at numerous high-profile locations, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the 2017 Whitney Biennial, MOMA PS1, and at the Company Gallery in New York City.

Raúl de Nieves: Eternal Return and The Obsidian Heart, curated by Risa Puleo, will be on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami (MOCA) from October 15, 2020 through March 21, 2021. The exhibition will reconnect Raúl’s exuberant material sensibility to his roots in punk music and drag performance, devotional ritual and celebratory queerness. This Miami showcase is also the first to consider the relationship between his solo sculptural work and collaborative performances, including his band Haribo and his operatic performances. “Performance and art-making to me come from the same category. Most of my sculptures feel like personal performances or as part of stories that I'm trying to make real,” Raúl says. “This is the first time we bring the video documentation into the context of an exhibition so it’s actually exciting to think that people can relive these experiences in that form and ephemera.”

Day(Ves)of Wonder
Day(Ves)of Wonder

The signature piece of the exhibition is an iconic Roman-inspired carousel, entitled When I Look in to Your Eyes I See the Sun, which was commissioned by Bvlgari and Art Production Fund and previously shown at the Faena Hotel Miami Beach during Art Basel Miami Beach. The life-size carousel will occupy a large portion of MOCA’s exhibition space along with dozens of sculptures of opulent creatures. The elaborate humanlike figures that Raúl is known for shimmer and seduce from afar, but a closer look reveals that they are encrusted in beads, crystals, plastic jewels, sequins, cardboard, and other simple everyday items. “I believe the carousel is a form of traditionality and it allows us to hold memories from when we might have experienced our first rides and encounters,” Raúl says.

“Creation is a form of mirroring one’s life,” Raúl says. “My art practice allows for me to see these objects as a form of sharing my own personal experiences, times, beliefs, frustrations, realizations and enjoyment.” Raúl pulls inspiration for his art from a variety of places, including his childhood in Michoacán, Mexico, where public religious rituals and private devotional acts included elaborate costuming, performances and theatrical components; as well as from the queer punk scenes in San Diego, San Francisco and New York, where he found his artistic voice. He also credits his mother as one of the most inspiring parts of his life. “The act of her letting me know that I could go on and be myself has given me the opportunity to fully realize this way of thinking,” he says. “Also, my friends and the communities that I have been introduced to have allowed for a personal growth in thinking.”

When I Look Into Your Eyes I See The Sun
When I Look Into Your Eyes I See The Sun

As one of the most important queer Mexican artists working in the United States today, Raúl’s young career has been meteoric and an inspiration for so many young Latin artists. The upcoming exhibition is even more poignant for its location in Miami, a location synonymous with Hispanic and queer influence and community. Raúl recognizes the importance of this moment. “This is obviously very inspiring and I hope that people can feel inspired to allow themselves to fully realize their own personal dreams,” he says. “Miami brings magic to me in many ways; I love its beaches, sunsets and architecture. The exhibition fits great with Miami for its exuberant form of personality and its love for beauty.”

Raúl de Nieves: Eternal Return and The Obsidian Heart, curated by Risa Puleo, will be on display at MOCA in North Miami, from October 15, 2020 through March 21, 2021. The museum is open on Wednesdays from noon - 7:00 p.m. and Thursdays through Sundays from 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum has instituted new health and safety guidelines that require social distancing and face coverings, among other measures. For the safety of its visitors, staff members and volunteers, MOCA is also implementing enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols, such as the placement of signage and hand sanitizer throughout the museum.

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