The Treasure House of Memory exhibit

Raúl de Nieves: The Treasure House of Memory exhibit, ICA Boston.

As soon as I heard about The Treasure House of Memory exhibit, I knew I had to go see it! Created by interdisciplinary artist, Raúl De Nieves, for the Institute of Contemporary Art; pieces range from colorful stained glass narratives to dynamic and enthusiastic performances to unique standing sculptures encrusted with everyday materials like resin, bangles, beads and bells.

Having been born in Michoacán, Mexico, De Nieves wanted to reference the traditional costumes of his Mexican culture with the pattern and color of his beadwork. He also wanted to marry this traditional wear with more modern modes of dress such as drag, queer club culture and ballroom.

He mixed these two unlikely ideas along with some religious notes and processional attire woven throughout as well. 

All of the works in this exhibit derive from Mexican craft traditions, such as the paper and beadwork that can be observed throughout. 

I had spent a good amount of time venturing throughout the museum, enjoying each piece and exhibit I passed, but still wondering when I’d finally find De Nieves’ exhibit. Upon entering the exhibit for the first time, I was blown away by the color. I didn’t even have to look at the description on the wall to know I had finally found it. 

With bright blues, greens, purples and yellows, I knew it was the Treasure House of Memory exhibit. I immediately was impressed by the strong use of color and my eyes danced around the room taking in every detail. 

My eyes were drawn to a nearly four foot sculpture that was closest to the entryway. The bright purples and yellows that were used for this specific sculpture infatuated me. 

The sculpture was contorted into a unique form, so it took me a moment or two to analyze the work to understand what exactly it was. 

It appeared to be an animal of sorts, with a human body, bent backward. The head was touching the floor and the feet were still upright and holding it up. When I noticed the feet, I realized it had high heels on, which instantly made me fall more in love with this piece. 

The beadwork was beautiful. Upon a closer look, I realized how ‘regular’ the actual beads were. They were beads that we would have used in crafts growing up. However, De Nieves was somehow able to transform these regular materials into something high-end and extravagant. I was amazed by how gorgeous this piece was. 

This sculpture was duplicated, and two others were placed in interesting, alternative positions. One was dominated by oranges and the other with greens. 

After these, I was able to admire the centerpiece of this exhibit, which was a life sized, blinged-out horse. Standing on its back two legs, the horse was huge. You had to look up to view the whole piece. The beadwork on this horse was extraordinary. This time a larger array of colors was used and a shiny golden tail was the special touch for this centerpiece.  

Behind this was a large tapestry with a collage of De Nieves’ early tarot-inspired drawings and postcard replications of well-known works from other famous artists. 

De Nieves added butterflies, along with green vines and leaves to pop against the black and white drawings in order to catch your eye. 

Playing off of his theme of transformation, we can view his old works that lacked color at the time, integrated with his new pieces and ideas. Although different, they come together to further his theme and create a beautiful, juxtaposing piece. 

Overall, the exhibit was a great show of color and marriage between tradition and novelty. I feel like a lot of the student body would enjoy the pieces along with the message De Nieves is trying to convey. 

And with the diversity on campus, I believe a lot of individuals could relate to at least one aspect of De Nieves' identity that he puts into his work, such as his Mexican culture or his sexuality. 

If you are an Arts student on campus, you can reach out to the head of your department to receive free tickets to the ICA. This can be done for a majority of museums in Boston. 

If you aren’t an Arts major but you would love to visit the Treasure House of Memory and the ICA’s many other amazing exhibits, tickets are fairly inexpensive with the use of your student ID or you could plan to go on Thursday night which is free for everyone, every week. 

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