What does it mean to be an American artist today?
From his basement studio in Ridgewood, Queens, artist Raúl de Nieves creates an epic stained glass mural for the 2017 Whitney Biennial. Born in Mexico, de Nieves immigrated to San Diego at the age of nine and has been living in New York since 2008. “Growing up in Mexico was really magical because I got to see a lot of forms of celebration,” says the artist. “I got to experience death as a really young child. That’s what my work is about: it’s like seeing the facets of happiness and sadness all in one place.”
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His commission from the Whitney Museum of American Art gave de Nieves the opportunity to experiment with the tradition of stained glass, and combine this new light-infused installation with existing figurative sculptures. With gaffers tape, paper, and color gels, de Nieves created a narrative that begins with personal struggle and self-doubt, but ends with “a celebration of life.” In reflecting upon his father’s early death and his mother’s courageous decision to move their family to the United States, de Nieves sees the installation as a form of remembrance. “The mural talks about this experience—this journey,” says the artist, “I feel really happy that I could put so much emphasis on this idea of ‘a better tomorrow’ in my artwork.”
Raúl de Nieves (b. 1983, Michoacán, Mexico) lives and works in New York. Learn more about the artist at: https://art21.org/artist/raul-de-nieves/
CREDITS | “New York Close Up” Series Producer: Nick Ravich. Director: Ian Forster. Editor: Morgan Riles. Cinematography: Andrew Whitlatch. Additional Cinematography: Ian Forster. Sound & Production Assistant: Nicholas Vore. Design & Graphics: Open & Urosh Perisic. Artwork Courtesy: Raúl de Nieves, Rafa Esparza, Aliza Nisenbaum & Whitney Museum Of American Art. Thanks: The Dreamhouse, Friends Of The High Line, Christopher Y. Lew & Mia Locks. © Art21, Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved.
“New York Close Up” is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; VIA Art Fund; Lévy Gorvy; and by individual contributors.