For the second episode of Raw Materials—our new series where we talk to artists about the physical things that shape their practice—filmmaker Will Robson-Scott spoke to colorful Mexican-American artist Raúl de Nieves. During his childhood in Mexico’s city of Michoacán, De Nieves was taught to sew and crochet—sparking an early interest in materials not traditionally associated with the paint and clay of fine art. Continuing this thread, art’s great transformer of materials chose instead to teach himself rather than follow a formal artistic education. Rather than using an easel and paintbrush, De Nieves relies on the slow, manual labour of stitching and gluing—where patterns of immensely intricate beads and thread sit at the centre of his creative world. De Nieves defines his studio, in a basement beneath Brooklyn’s Spectrum Club, as a “queer underground safe space”—many miles from the Whitney Museum in downtown Manhattan, where he recently completed a 50-foot installation for the gallery’s Biennial, which De Nieves had coated in gigantic, glimmering candy-colored panels.
Speaking about his candid portrait of the self-taught and widely exhibited artist, director Will Robson-Scott explains: “The interesting thing about Raul and his work is that it’s steeped in community, based around his workspace where he transforms everyday materials in order to make something unconventional. I think his work and his personality are interesting as they nod to his background and political stance, but aren’t being force fed down the viewers mouth. What I take from his work is there is a hidden message that he leaves with the viewer.”