Nora Maité Nieves: Temples of the Sea at Jason Haam, Korea

Jason Haam is pleased to present Nora Maité Nieves: Temples of the Sea, the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. Featuring richly textured paintings and totemic wall sculptures, the show 
explores themes of identity and belonging, as well as the histories of places that we knowingly or unknowingly carry with us throughout our lives. The title of the exhibition, Temples of the Sea, serves as a metaphorical thesis for this new body of work, which simultaneously references the artist’s native homeland, the island of Puerto Rico, and the sacredness and safety of a single place within a complicated and evolving environment.

There is an inherent and immediate physicality to Nieves’s work, evidenced by the richly textured and tactile surfaces and edges of her brightly colored canvases, which often include a variety of media, including acrylic, flashe, and modeling paste. Drawing inspiration from architecture encountered both in Puerto Rico and New York City, where the artist currently resides, Nieves acts as a connector between worlds, combining fragments of decorative elements from her Caribbean roots—a ubiquitous modernist concrete block design, tile floor patterning from a past residence—with those from the urban landscape she now encounters on a daily basis.

In a sense, Nieves is actively engaged in her own process of world-building, with her worked and contoured surfaces operating as topographical maps of new physical and psychological states. “La Bahía”—which depicts an undulating blue bubble separated from a raked field of green, flanked by emblems at cardinal points—visually references the scenic and bustling San Juan Bay that borders the artist’s childhood home in downtown Old San Juan. “Touching the Moon” features a sweeping leaf- like tendril, this time stretching from one territory to another across a sea of blue frottaged canvas.

Nieves creates the surface marks by layering treated segments of textured panels underneath the canvas and then rubbing pigment on the surface, leaving ghostly residues of pieces that previously haunted the artist’s studio. Just as these works are formed from shadows of paintings, alluding to a reality that has been recreated, Nieves gestures toward our ability to build on past personal experience to forge new identities.

The piece that perhaps best represents this marriage of fundamental dualities—old and new, land and sea, self and other—is “Transitional Land”. With its massive circular form and inverse coloration, the three-panel piece echoes the Chinese Yin Yang symbol, itself a sign of how seemingly oppositional  elements can in fact be interdependent. Fittingly, in the center of these swirling forces, Nieves has placed a lone square, an island floating at its heart.

The exhibition will be on view through July 12, 2022.

Nora Maité Nieves (b. 1980 San Juan, Puerto Rico) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She received her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2010, and her BFA from La Escuela de Artes Plásticas, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2004. Recent solo exhibitions include: Deep Blue Day, Pink Bright Night, Embajada Foyer, Brooklyn, NY (2021); Full Room in the Sun Room, Fresh Window Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (2019); Paisaje Lunar, Flyweight Projects, Brooklyn, NY (2019); and Tangible at Hidrante, San Juan, PR (2018). Recent Two Person exhibitions: Cuerpo, Espacio y Todo lo que Rodea, Nora Maité Nieves and Yoan Sorin, Embajada, San Juan, PR (2021); Electric Hue, Proxyco Gallery, NewYork, NY (2021). Recent group exhibitions include: Surfacing at Ruiz-Healy Art, New York, NY curated by Carlos Rosales-Silva (2021); Contact Light at Survey Survey, New York, NY (2021); […]ENTREFORMAS, at El Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, San Juan, PR, curated by Abdiel Segarra (2021); Rubus Armeniacus (Himalayan Blackberry) at Jessica’s Apartment Gallery, New York, NY, curated by Jessica Kwok (2019); Nada Tropical, Miscelanea Gallery, Barcelona, Spain, curated by Ricardo Cabret and Maximilian Juliá (2019); Small Objects at La Salita, New York, NY, curated by Paz Monge (2019); Repatriation at El Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, San Juan, PR, curated by Bianca Ortiz (2019); and EDDYS Room at Galleri Thomassen, Gothenburg, Sweden, curated by Austin Eddy (2018).