Raúl de Nieves’ latest exhibition at Company gallery in New York was an induction into an intimate capsule of the interior self, and appears to have evolved from the more socially motivated exhibition at the Whitney Biennial 2017 just three years prior. The stained glass effect on the ceiling was expansive, largely geometric in design and representative of the seven chakras or the energies one carries within themselves, ready to be directed toward the expansion of one’s own consciousness. The glow of the light seemed to come from within and was caught in the fragments of mirror where his intricately beaded sculptures rest upon like meditative figures.
De Nieves was born in Michoacán, Mexico and immigrated to San Diego, California as a young child with his family. The influence for much of his practice begins in those early years surrounded by makers, celebration and expression through the transformation of seemingly insignificant material into something beautiful and charged with meaning. In a recent visit to his studio, organized by the Swiss Institute, we were able to get a personal understanding of how his heritage influences the many forms that make up his practice. Shifting among beads rolling on the floor, we lean in to examine the feathers sprouting out of a life-size sculpture of a standing figure. De Nieves wore this as a costume for one of his performances, his movements interpreted musically by the sounds of bells attached at the arms. As an artist, performer and musician—he plays in a punk band called Hairbone—de Nieves’ wide-ranging practice contains pendulum shifts of energy and focus from micro to macro, the individual and collective that give dimension to the ideas of beauty and transformation.