RAÚL DE NIEVES
Like the ancient poets, whose epics were not only fantastical tales but complex analogies for daily life, Raúl de Nieves understands the way in which echoes of the everyday can make fantasy live more vividly. His joyfully noisy performances with his band, Haribo, seem to animate his immersive, intricately crafted installations. Each new character, object and scene enriches the plot of an ongoing story that draws as much from nature and de Nieves’ own history as it does from his imagination.
This all-encompassing practice is made even richer by de Nieves’ attention to detail. Which bulbs to use for an ornate chandelier? Which beads for the Technicolor sculptures that more closely resemble coral than what they really are—shoes?
“Craft had always been a really beautiful part of my upbringing in Mexico,” says de Nieves, “because if you couldn’t buy that sweater, you could make yourself a sweater, you just have to learn these techniques. I really want to connect with all my senses and feel my surroundings, my body and where an idea can translate into a whole journey.”
As part of his participation in the Biennial, de Nieves worked closely with a Tiffany & Co. master engraver to produce an exquisitely tooled silver box, which bears an image of a figure drawn by de Nieves. This exclusive artist’s edition will complement the experimental workmanship of de Nieves’ larger work for the Biennial: stained glass (of a kind) mapped onto six of the Whitney’s massive windows.
“I turned back to paper, scissors, tape and now I’m making what would be a very large-scale stained glass window in my studio, the place that I go to every day, where I have tools that you can take anywhere,” says de Nieves. “I want things to be recognizable to the body and the self, but I want it also to cause a second thought: is that really a window? Is that a shoe or a coral reef?”