Impressions of Jenny Perez: A solo exhibition in North Miami of Perez's work for the month of September

The Contemporart Art Modern Project Gallery is proud to present Impressions of Jenny Perez, our first solo show with painter and Miami local, Jenny Perez. The show explores the many dimensions of Perez's development as an artist and its similitudes to the Impressionist Movement.

To break with convention is a challenge. Our society is so imbued in each individual’s psyche that it is often difficult to break out of the paradigm we act on a day-to-day basis. Art, and specifically the act of creating and viewing art, is one such rare opportunity to escape from the preconditioned world of thought that reiterates its terms to us with every coming moment, every coming action. For both the creator and viewer, art is an open format exercise to think critically as to what an artist wants to say and how they want to say it.

The education system built around the art world is employed as a tool to legitimize an artist in the face of viewership and collectors; it also serves the purposes of functionally pushing the artist beyond their current abilities of skill and technique. Nonetheless, the danger of a formal “art education” is that it can instill stringent conventions of the “correct way” to make work. Such training can put limitations and build a framework around an artist’s otherwise unbridled creativity. Enter the “self-taught artist”. Any given artist has the opportunity to diverge from tradition, but the self-taught artist does so by virtue of their very existence in the fine art space. They approach medium without the constraints of context, and they therefore can consider their process completely on their terms. Such is the approach of Jenny Perez; as an artist who found her own education in her apprenticeships with various artists throughout Miami and the cultural ethos of her hometown of Miami. In short, Jenny Perez has found her way of doing things. With aerosol and acrylics, thread and gold leaf, and most recently her amorphous canvas backings, she has found a perfect blend of grassroots invention and fine art sensibilities to render a wholly unique oeuvre.

When looking at Perez’s work, something as old-fashioned as the 19th century Impressionist movement would be the last thing in which one would find commonality. After all, her work comes from a completely different cultural context and includes materials, cultural motifs, and stylistic approaches that were not even in existence when Monet painted his Impressions, soleil levant in 1872. However, in looking beneath the surface of her work and her person, one can find how history repeats itself in the motifs of her development. The continuance of two-hundred-year-old ideas of anti-establishment painting and art from a grassroots sentimentality finds itself in the hands of a Caribbean-American, female artist.

The Impressionists and Post-Impressionists of the 19th century often had one thing in common; they were rejected by the codified institution of art during their early years. Artists like Gaugin, Monet, Van Gogh, and Cezanne, all of which received minimal to no formal artistic training, were able to create bodies of work that revolutionized the conceptions of what art is and what art can be. Like Perez, they rejected the idea that one needed to be trained to be an artist in the traditional sense. From a process perspective, the Impressionists believe in the idea of painting “en plein air” (trans. “in plain air”) where they would paint scenes live and in the outdoors, rather than within a stale room. As anyone familiar with Perez’s history would know, her roots are in possibly the closest equivalent to “en plein air” that exists in a contemporary context: live murals that paint the walls in Midtown, Wynwood, Downtown, and other such neighborhoods in the South Florida area. 

One most significant departure from conventional art rulings of the time was the rejection of the notice that works needed to have a photorealistic quality to them. The Impressionists looked to capture moments in nature, developing a body of work that was meant to convey movement, texture, and ephemerality. Perez has always played against the idea that good art is photo-realistic art, as seen clearly in Still Life, which not only is reminiscent of Monet’s Still Life with Apples and Grapes but also pokes fun at the age-old rulings of perspective; the banana is disproportionately large while other parts of the table spread are unduly small. Reflections of Self is Perez’s oldest piece in this exhibition; as such it is meant to act as a foil to her newer circular portraits to display her progression. Perez’s work increasingly looks to express the impression of a memory or a sentiment, favoring the blurred, textural visage of her woman motif over the more conventional figurative depiction. 

Such is also the case with pieces such as Even After It All and I am here so are you. The brushwork on I Was Born in the Spring and Untitled, for example, provides vibrancy and vigor in Monet’s The truth of nature, or any given landscape by Henri Lebasque... 

What Perez brings to the impressionist movement has lost to the ideas of time is a contemporary perspective. Her work touches on topics that are relevant to the discourse in today's world: the plights of a modern woman, the expression of identity as an ethnic minority in American society, and the transition of street art from vandalism to a colloquially endorsed art form. Whether intentional or not, Jenny Perez is inheriting and reinventing many pillars of the revolutionary artists that came before her.