Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Nando Alvarez-Perez

Photographs have many potential uses. They can serve as objective documents of history, standing in for memory, ideas, and sensory representations, but they also have the capacity to manifest images of fictional narratives that are markedly creative. Nando Alvarez-Perez’s photographs, often produced in a series, mirror the many capacities of the photograph, capturing an array of past and future meanings, motifs, styles, and contexts.

Nando Alvarez-Perez. Primary Document 022415, 2015; archival pigment print; 40 x 60 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Nando Alvarez-Perez. Primary Document 022415, 2015; archival pigment print; 40 x 60 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

At the core of Perez’s work is a specific interest in photographs as “translations from the material world into the perceptual—as I play within the memory of photography and imagine what its future could be.”[1] In his ongoing series History Pictures, Perez explores what he calls a “symbolic ecosystem of shared signs” by creating the many possibilities of the image all at once. In Primary Document 013015 (2015), Perez creates a digital photograph of what reads as a traditional still life that is a staged set of interrelated visual, aesthetic, and structural similarities that include photographs within the display.

Nando Alvarez-Perez. Primary Document 013015, 2015; archival pigment print; 40 x 60 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Nando Alvarez-Perez. Primary Document 013015, 2015; archival pigment print; 40 x 60 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Perhaps the simplest way to define his working approach in Primary Document 013015 (and the other works in the History Pictures series) is to say that Perez combines objects, images, marks, and shadows that fit together through a consistent, timely, and inventive logic. Yet this explanation is not entirely sufficient, as each setup requires a close—at times puzzling—reading. Furthermore, as Perez explores the representational capacity of the image, some of his individual photographs and digital images function across series to become part of more than one body of work.

Nando Alvarez-Perez. Primary Document 031915, 2015; archival pigment print; 40 x 60 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Nando Alvarez-Perez. Primary Document 031915, 2015; archival pigment print; 40 x 60 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Primary Document 031915 (2015) places a cube-like silver digital camera, now a kind of relic itself, in the midst of a still life comprising a Grecian column draped with a purple velvet cloth—signaling royalty and a kind of contemporary tastelessness—as well as a faux gold chain, a small portrait of a glamorous blonde woman, a carafe filled with blue liquid, and an archival photograph of a marble statue and two semi-peeled oranges. Behind the woman and the carafe is a group of withered green leaves and a small black fan used in electronic devices. These objects are set against a digitally manipulated background of an underwater scene—light and dark blues—in which red, yellow, and orange chili peppers float effortlessly. There is a great deal of meaning to unpack, and like traditional still-life paintings and photographs, the significations behind each object or juxtaposition lead in many directions. Perez’s images take the viewer into a future for the photograph, one that is an ever-changing mechanism for creating and crystalizing meaning.

Nando Alvarez-Perez. Untitled 20 (Bang!: A New Model of the Universe), 2012-2014; archival pigment print; 4 x 6 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Nando Alvarez-Perez. Untitled 20 (Bang!: A New Model of the Universe), 2012-2014; archival pigment print; 4 x 6 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

 

Images hold our attention. While Perez has a distinct sense for the production of meaningful still lifes, his other series encompass a broad range of ideas. In Untitled 20 (Bang!: A New Model of the Universe), 2012–2014, Perez turns the camera back onto the audience; however, instead of greeting a crowd, there is just a set of empty red-velvet seats. The sheer blackness of the theater, with just the hint of a visible corner where two walls meet to provide an almost invisible amount of depth, lends the image a textural richness. There is an implied comment about spectatorship, entertainment, and the use and manipulation of photography for both ends, but there is also a celebration of those functions, with their world-making capacity, that gives photography the ability to be such a pervasive force in fine art and beyond.

Nando Alvarez-Perez. Untitled 5 (Refraction), 2013-1014; archival pigment print; 13 x 19 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Nando Alvarez-Perez. Untitled 5 (Refraction), 2013-2014; archival pigment print; 13 x 19 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Two works, Untitled 5 (2013–2014) from the Refraction series and Untitled 11 (2012–2014) from the Surface Tension Birch Effect series, carry out aesthetic and compositional strategies that are largely different from each other and the artist’s other bodies of work, but they still resonate from a unified artistic voice. Untitled 5 delves into the purely abstract yet remarkably visceral and tactile, while Untitled 11 creates a serene peek through two elegantly interwoven palm fronds as a bright California sun rises or sets to form a cradle of crisp shadows where the two overlap.

Nando Alvarez-Perez. Untitled 11 (Surface Tension Birch Effect), 2012-2014; archival pigment print; 13 x 19 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Nando Alvarez-Perez. Untitled 11 (Surface Tension Birch Effect), 2012-2014; archival pigment print; 13 x 19 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

What impresses most about Perez’s work is his ability to create series that feel both distinct and deeply interrelated, signaling a larger project or goal comprising vastly different parts. Nando Alvarez-Perez is chiefly concerned with the many possibilities of the image. His series work through one set of ideas at a time to convey yet another way of seeing the world. The artist’s images intermingle the digital and the analog with a keenly contemporary sense of the iconography of the past as a flexible set of signs—elegant and playful, subtle and rich.

Nando Alvarez-Perez is a photographer located in San Francisco, CA. Perez received his BFA in Film Studies from CUNY Hunter College in New York and his MFA in Photography from the San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco. He has been a Guest Lecturer and Visiting Faculty member at San Francisco Art Institute since 2013. His work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions in venues throughout the United States including: Paul Stack Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center, Buffalo, NY; Lobot Gallery, Oakland, CA and Newspace Center for Photography, Portland, OR. 

 

[1] Nando Alvarez-Perez, email message to author, March 18, 2015.

 

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