Kadir López Nieves’ New “Signs” Series Solo Exhibit February 23 to March 7
Early man filled their caves with them, as did the Pharaohs in their Egyptian pyramids. You’ll find them in the night sky, arranged by an omnipotent artist and on the Autobahn, planted by work crews in hard hats. Signs. They tell us where the bathroom is, show us the nearest exit, where to find our departure gate and when to be mindful of bears. “Signs are everywhere. They dictate our lives,” says contemporary artist Kadir López Nieves. “Our alphabet is a group of signs and so is our numerical system. They can be simple or complex. The big gas station and soft drink signs seduce and communicate a feeling. And in a way, that’s what a great work of art does.”
This February, Kadir López brings his union of art and salvaged signs to his Palm Beach solo exhibit at Cavalier Galleries’ on South County Road. After almost a decade away from his Palm Beach collectors, López returns to a resounding homecoming. “Kadir López is one of the most original artists working today, from celebrating his Cuban heritage to his extraordinary use of historic figures in novel, artistic mediums,” says gallery owner Ron Cavalier
OUTLAW OR CELEBRITY?
López’ three newest “Signs” series, now displayed at Cavalier Galleries’ Worth Avenue location, include: Wanted, Gangster Corporation and Grand Prix. Reclaimed corporate and government placards from around the globe have been carefully curated by López and turned into a historical tableau for commemorating an icon and their moment in history. In his Wanted pieces, Kadir transposes black and white historical photographs of famed outlaws onto his signs and then–using a proprietary method– creates a third paint layer. “The protagonists in Wanted blur the line of fame and infamy,” says López. “When does an outlaw become a celebrity?”
AND WHEN DOES AN ARTIST REACH CELEBRITY STATUS?
Kadir López Nieves, grew up in the city of Las Tunas, about an 8 hour drive from Havana, Cuba. It is known as the “City of Sculptures.” In nearby Camagüey, he attended specialized arts middle and high schools. Raised by an entrepreneurial father and a mother who taught mathematics, López began sketching and sculpting at a young age. His mother, who had to resign to the fact that he was prioritizing drawing over multiplication tables, supported her son’s artistic interests by serving as his first muse. She allowed him to sketch her or be slathered in plaster for cast sculptures. By the time López was ready for college in 1990, he gained entry into the prestigious Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) in Havana and placed first in the entire country that year.
“ISA is located in one of the most beautiful and architecturally significant buildings in Cuba, shaped like a woman’s womb. It is literally and figuratively a place that births artists,” says López. “It’s a rigorous program. In fact, the first semester I thought about dropping out after my first artistic debate where I was deluged with interpretive questions about my work. And yet, I persisted. The greatest lessons at ISA were not the technical ones, but the ones that taught me to question, to think and to have a point of view.”
Kadir Lopez Nieves Creates a Stir Among Collectors
López has been honing his point of view ever since, exploring the global zeitgeist through various mediums–whether 2-D or sculptural. Collected around the world by royal families and Hollywood stars, former presidents and current CEOs, he’s also a bit of a Palm Beach darling, with patrons that include Beth Rudin DeWoody and Eduardo and Missy de Guardiola. In 2019, López was commissioned by the SAG awards to paint a 100 foot mural for the show, and also painted live during the broadcast.
But for all the glitz, López still remains starstruck when the owner of prestigious Art Nexus Collection bought one of his works early in his career. “I always try to remain humble, but when you are embraced by the greats in the art community, it’s hard not to stop smiling,” says López. Today, the artist is dividing his time between Cuba, Spain and the US. While Cuba has been home base for years, he bristles at being labeled a Cuban artist. “I’m proud to be Cuban, but why put labels?” says López. “Cuba influences my art, but the Cuban diaspora is everywhere. We draw inspiration from more than a fixed place and time.”
Along with his “Signs” collections, López has also brought to Palm Beach his latest, larger than life Monopoly board with neon game pieces, “Havana Noir.” As well as three, cheeky Rubik’s cubes, throwback brain puzzles deftly suspended in the air. Instead of primary color stickers on their squares, one cube features Democratic Presidents, another Republican Presidents and on the third, the faces of notorious gangsters. Parallels are open to interpretation. “His work is seductive and captivating on the surface, but thought provoking as one digs deeper,” says Cavalier. “We are honored to represent this work and genius.” The buzz is building to a crescendo as a new crop of collectors and regulars clamor for a piece of the artist’s point of view. “His art is heralding such excitement in town,” says local art connoisseur, Kassi Lowenstein. “His show, his presence, his themes are electrifying.” It must be a sign.