The artist’s first presentation in Boston features a new body of work exploring themes of memory and personal transformation

(Boston, MA—August 11, 2021) The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) presents a solo exhibition of New York-based interdisciplinary artist, performer, and musician Raúl de Nieves (b. 1983, Michoacán, Mexico), whose multifaceted practice ranges from stained-glass-style narrative paintings to animated performances, to densely adorned figurative sculptures encrusted with bangles, beads, bells, sequins, and other everyday materials. These opulent, joyful sculptures reference traditional costumes in Mexican culture and modes of dress from drag, ballroom, and queer club cultures, while also evoking religious processional attire and the outfits worn by circus performers. All of his works share a distinctive visual language that draws from Mexican craft traditions, religious iconography, mythology, and folktales to explore the transformational possibilities of adornment and the mutability of identity. For the ICA, de Nieves has created The Treasure House of Memory, a body of interconnected works that are rooted in memory and explore themes of personal transformation. On view September 1, 2021 through July 24, 2022, Raúl de Nieves: The Treasure House of Memory is organized by Jeffrey De Blois, Assistant Curator and Publications Manager.

“This exhibition grew out of Raúl’s desire to look within himself—at his experience, past work, recurring themes—to chart a self-possessed way forward in his life and work. The Treasure House of Memory reflects on a question in the title of one his works: Who would we be without our memories? As in all of his work, Raúl answers through ornately beautiful, life-affirming artworks,” said De Blois.

The Treasure House of Memory begins with a freestanding, three-panel painting—in the style of a room divider—depicting Saint George and the Dragon. The legend, in which the saint mounted on horseback slays a dragon who, demanding constant tributes, terrorizes a village, is a motif de Nieves regularly revisits. Nearby, a beaded sculpture with two contorted, interlocking bodies with horse heads appears to emerge from the painted scene; a process of transformation that develops in three subsequent figurative sculptures in various states of becoming a horse.

Who Would We Be Without Our Memories—a large, tapestry-like collage—is a narrative map composed of cut-up facsimiles of de Nieves’s early tarot-inspired drawings and postcard reproductions of well-known works from art history, which are built up in dimensional layers. At the center of the installation is The Fable, Which Is Composed Of Wonders, Moves The More, a life-size, riotously colorful, and symbolically expressive freestanding sculpture of a horse. Rearing up on its hind legs—a pose, read at times as defensive, while at other times as a means of communicating dominance—The Fable stands here as a beautiful body uncontained and fully actualized, the triumphant realization of the process of transformation that plays out between the interconnected sculptures.

A large-scale, portal-like circular collage points back out to a larger world, seen anew. The Treasure House of Memory expands the artist’s inventive adaptation of iconographic traditions through vibrant combinations of form and material in an energetic and accessible visual language.

About the ICA

Since its founding in 1936, the ICA has shared the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, imagination, and provocation that contemporary art offers with its audiences. A museum at the intersection of contemporary art and civic life, the ICA has advanced a bold vision for amplifying the artist’s voice and expanding the museum’s role as educator, incubator, and convener. Its exhibitions, performances, and educational programs provide access to the breadth and diversity of contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas. The ICA is located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA, 02210. The Watershed is located at 256 Marginal Street, East Boston, MA 02128. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our website at Follow the ICA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Support for Raúl de Nieves: The Treasure House of Memory is provided by First Republic Bank.

Additional support is generously provided by Steve Corkin and Dan Maddalena and Charles and Fran Rodgers.