Showing through October 31, Newman Popiashvili Gallery presents “Riddlin Doors,” its second solo exhibition of Brooklyn-based artist Raúl deNieves. This installation encompasses the entire gallery and takes viewers through a rich fantasy world of radically divergent palette—evoking deeply ingrained traditions of the artist’s native Mexico and inviting the viewer to discover what can be found behind any door.
Upon entering, viewers come upon a sculptured book whose blank white pages open into a floating sail. All in white, the book embodies the fairytale world of the artist. This disjointed space—including the book and surrounding 3-D collages—is rendered solely in black and white and plays on this dichotomy through deNieves’ arrangement of paintings, sculptures, drawings and collages in two distinct rooms.
Like the 1939 blockbusters “The Women” and “The Wizard of Oz”—the latter touched by the hands of both George Cukor (1899–1983) and Victor Fleming (1889–1949)—one finds in “Riddlin Doors” a radical shift in color palettes from a graphic two-toned range to a multi-hued display of the fantastical and magical. Replicating this cinematic effect and compelling set successions, the artist builds out a narrow hallway in the gallery where a wall divides and acts a medium for the juxtaposition of spaces. A hidden door leads the viewer into the next area: a Technicolor “ofrenda” (altar).
Neither Clare Booth Luce nor L. Frank Baum have anything on the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl. In the shattering color of deNieves’ “antechamber,” one can feel the hands of the Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Aztec, Maya, P’urhépecha, and Totonac peoples. Appropriately, “Riddlin Doors” runs through Halloween, the eve of Mexico’s El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead or All Souls' Day). On that day the dead are visited at their graves and honored with their favorite foods and beverages. Rich colors—particularly that of marigolds—are elemental to that celebration. On that day, the aforementioned ofrenda appears in homes, schools, and government offices across Mexico. It is believed that—on El Día de los Muertos —it is easier for the souls of the departed to visit the living. Among the panorama of sight, sounds, and smells used to welcome the departed are veladora candles, photos, anecdotes, poems called "Calaveras," flowers, liquors, play money, food, and candies.
Recently, deNieves created an installation as part of the exhibition Red Badge of Courage at the National Newark Building curated by Omar Lopez-Chahoud. In his installation, “Three Babies Same Mother Different Father,” deNieves presided over an explosion in black and white. Geometric patterns swirled with tension that space—giving the artists’ drawings, paintings, and mixed-media sculpture a context of dimension and texture. “Three Babies,” in its bejeweled elements, papier-mâché sculptures, yarn costumes, mirrors, and three-dimensional paper collages portends “Riddlin Doors.”
Raúl deNieves was born in Morelia Michuacan, Mexico and grew up in San Diego. His first solo show, “Beacha Beach Babies,” was also exhibited at Newman Popiashvili Gallery. He has also shown his work at Galerie Giti Nourbakhsch (Berlin). Shows forthcoming include those at Yautepec Gallery (Mexico City) and Haas and Fischer (Zurich).
By Raúl deNieves
Through October 31, 2009
@ Newman Popiashvili Gallery
504 West 22nd Street, NYC 10011