Pure Sun Pure Rain (The 3AM Paintings) • Michelle Pérez

Jul 7 to Jul 30, 2016 • Video Room

Infinity in Your Hand

With a catchy and haiku-like title in “Pure Sun Pure Rain (The 3AM Paintings)”, and marking her 2nd solo exhibition, artist Michelle Pérez acts on the posited challenge to artists that involves a critical engagement of painting and its processes – negotiating the vital and fluctuating relationship a painter has over his thematic and material muse. Does the painter manipulate his medium to make a window into another world or does he allow himself to be authored by the self-proficiency of the materials on hand, the accepted higher mode. There can be a conjugality of both, a flexible straddling of these disparate mentalities that, perhaps, makes way for another viable option.

A brilliant pun in referencing the “pure” adjectives found in the non-representational works of the monumental Russian Purist Alexander Rodchenko, “Pure Sun, Pure Rain” is a take off on the brand of paints Pérez uses in her studio – setting the tone in defining a primarily pragmatic aesthetic. Comprising the exhibition is a conundrum suite of paintings that does not overtly seek to tell any story, convey a nostalgic narrative, nor pose a political proposition. Thematically calling the current work the “In Flux Series”, Pérez has rationalized the work’s theme in the constant state of “changing” inferred by the processes employed. The steady motion and movement, characteristic of the artist’s technique, inadvertently reflects her worldviews.

For Pérez, the appointed series nomenclature and exhibition title clue in on her working process. The paintings ironically exude warmth in its pronounced and positive plasticity. A visit to the artist’s studio sees these panels propped on paint cans and angled perpendicularly with the floor and adjusted accordingly to the viscosity of the paint as it is allowed to move slowly when reaching its point of maximum pull. Amidst all this activity, Pérez keeps a very private and portable notebook where she scribbles out her ideas, navigating through the endless mutable possibilities of scale, proportion, volume, foreground and ground, color, negative space and emphasized space; all of these are considered and pondered. She has carefully mapped out the exhibition on hand with its rationales, envisioning four sets of paintings that comprise PSPR 3am Paintings.

The paintings in their configured systems seem to reflect Pérez’ meditations in her notebook: “I’ve always been searching for what feels true and real deep down on the soul level. I can’t just accept what is passed on as absolute truth,” and concurs, “I guess it was this yearning or searching to find my truth that led me to the spiritual – in art, I find answers and insights too.” The simple addition and subtraction in the measures of scale and volume can arguably stir the mind and its senses and inevitably move the soul. Pérez has allowed herself to be a willing vessel or conduit for these pragmatic transformations that tip to the sublime and beyond the physical.

It is interesting to make known the intentions of the artist behind these. Summarily, Pérez has pitted herself with the positional framework and lexicon of abstract painting and has regurgitated her own understanding and expression. The artist is endeared to citing books, quotations, and memorable conversations from movies as sources of inspiration for her pieces. Pérez cites one particular work that she regards as the primary seed for the current “In Flux” paintings. In monochrome red and parlaying her signature paint flow and coagulate painting process, this precedent work however has yet to feature its one-directional flowing of paint units. Pérez explains the said work was about depicting the nocturnal routine of wanted slumber, of the in-between region of sleep and awake, between the realm of dreams and the harsh consciousness in the land of the living, thus the “3 a.m.” title adage.

And, conclusively marking and reflecting the enormous and tedious processes evidencing the “In Flux” works, one of her forwarded cornerstones in a quotation is apt, from Blake: “To see the world in a grain of sand (perhaps in our circumstance – the miniscule building blocks of the artist’s signature paint flow units) and heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in your hand and eternity in an hour.” Gravity and the passage of time do seem to cease in these pictures, and one is allowed access to a world of open possibilities and wonder.

—Jonathan Olazo