Exhibition: Alina Pérez’s “No One Recognizes You as a Puddle”

“No One Recognizes You as a Puddle,” by Alina Pérez, is on view from September 1 to October 9, 2021, at Deli. (Deli Gallery is located at 36 White Street, New York, New York.) Hailing from Miami, the Cuban American artist received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2016 and “has been translating trauma onto paper ever since.”

Description (by Isabel Flower): A cast of seven characters gather in Alina Perez’s monumental drawing It Never Heals, like a crowd in a busy nineteenth century tableaux. The most suggestively autobiographical of the group reads intently from a composition notebook; though her face closely resembles that of the artist herself, wisps of hair on the figure’s undeveloped chest and the bulge of her crimson shorts complicate a presumed gender identity. At her feet, two prepubescent female forms restrain a fantastical creature—half-human, half bird. One pins its wing to the floor while another brandishes a machete. To the left, the only figure in the scene rendered in black and white holds a lighter ablaze and, directly behind, a girl in a sheer top and delicate scarf accepts a cigarette with one hand while petting a horse with the other. Each action contains its own storyline, coinciding yet distinct, like memories floating through the brain or personas from past lives. After all, each of us are a composite of many bodies, constructed through cycles of elation and dejection, love and loss. Some of these we nurture, cherish, and outwardly display. Others we hide, repress, and starve.

In his experimental 1983 documentary Sans Soleil, elusive French filmmaker Chris Marker quotes Samura Koichi: “Who said that time heals all wounds?,” the narrator implores. “It would be better to say that time heals everything except wounds. With time, the hurt of separation loses its real limits. With time, the desired body will soon disappear, and if the desiring body has already ceased to exist for the other, then what remains is a wound, disembodied.” Alina’s first New York solo show is full of bodies—hers and those of others—that seem to be reaching into and across time. In the rosy tones of Touching You Touching Me, the artist and her lover embrace afront a bathroom mirror; a container of bright orange antibacterial Softsoap sitting on sink snaps the scene from romantic reverie back to the mundanities of twenty-first century life. Everyday existence is filtered through an erotic, illusory lens that pushes up against the limits of fantasy, metaphysicality, and even consciousness

“Emotions only last 90 seconds if you don’t resist and just let them pass,” she tells me over the phone. I have thought about this often since. It seems to me that Alina has a preternatural ability not only to tolerate a feeling, but to hold onto it, to be inside of it, and to turn it into something. In the contemplative blue of Keep Still, a male figure wades through a body of water that appears to be lit from within. A bird perches on his shoulder and the branches of low hanging swamp trees enclose the scene. This is not the first time I’ve encountered the glow of an indeterminate light source in Alina’s work. The same is true of birds, which appear in several of the drawings in this show. She tells me that, at one point, she was fixated on drawing angels, but even when this phase passed wings lingered in her compositions, as did a fascination with bioluminescence—animals and bodies of water that generate their own light. Over time, a collection of motifs emerged like a series of encrypted messages, leaking through the porous membrane between landscape and mindscape. Here, angels return again, too. Perhaps it is at these junctures where we permeate and transcend the worlds within ourselves.

This show’s title—“No one recognizes you as a puddle”—is taken from late Chicana cultural theorist Gloria Andaluza’s poem “Letting Go,” which muses over the irresolvable dissonance of identity and the profound loneliness that self-discovery can sometimes contain. Alina and I have spoken at length about the agonizing oversimplification demanded of artists in the age of digital visibility, and how increasingly absurd it feels to aspire to be “legible.” She explains that she has carefully avoided making work that is too literally about identity, at least not within the contemporary categories that we might most easily understand; “I’ve been so wrapped up in not making work about identity that I ended up making work that is about exactly that, but in a totally other way.” Every person has two lives—the first is in our mind, the second in the minds of others. Alina gives us the chance to stand inside, looking out, rather than outside, looking in.

Alina Pérez (b. 1995, Miami, Florida) received her BFA in Painting at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2017. She was a participant at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2017, and has attended residencies at the Fine Arts Works Center in Provincetown, the OxBow School of Art in Saugatuck, MI and the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT. Her work was recently exhibited Deli Gallery, New York; Arcadia Missa, London; Rachel Uffner, New York; and Company Gallery, New York. Perez is currently attending Yale University in New Haven as a 2021 MFA candidate.

For more information, see https://deligallery.com/Alina-Perez-Puddle

[Shown above: detail of Alina Pérez’s Keep Still.]

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