A boxer balances like a crane in opposition to a white wall, his left glove lifted in parallel with its corresponding leg. He’s turned away from us, concealing virtually his full anterior, and but the composition of the picture seems like a key handing over its lock: although we are able to’t see the boxer’s face, there may be the sense of getting been proven every thing.
The boxer seems twice throughout the framed works of “guabancex,” Elle Pérez’s second solo exhibition of latest pictures and collages at 47 Canal. Apart from the collages, the remainder of the principally monochrome collection is conspicuously unpeopled. Pérez, themself a boxer, has spoken earlier than about their curiosity in “making work the place you’re.” What then are we to infer from the planters, curbs, and lightless apertures into the unknown? From the pure settings of resilient disrepair that adjoin liminal publics— subway trains, eating sheds—and fraught privates, just like the garlanded parlor of a funeral house?
The capability to note a spot’s most mundane facets—the vestibules, the sliding doorways, the inadvertent petri dishes the place grit and moisture coagulate—suggests a deep familiarity, one that may’t be simply granted. “guabancex’s” framed work conjures a glimpse so intimate as to be microscopic, producing insights that one is compelled to query; much like a boxing coach, Pérez instructs by feinting (or feints as instruction).
That sense of cautious, if combative, steering pervades “guabancex.” To borrow from movie director Douglas Sirk, you may’t make pictures about issues, you may solely make them with them. When the with is clear, we’re graced with a dynamic stillness of breathtaking magnificence, like the opposite framed picture of the boxer, whose naked again curves like a nautilus in opposition to that very same white wall; however when the with is unclear, as within the framed images of damaged chain hyperlink, moist plastic, or algae-furred mangrove roots rising from water, it seems like a fragile redirection, a reminder to keep away from the temptation of about. With and about are completely different experiences, as Pérez is definitely conscious.
Which isn’t to say that Pérez gained’t play with this distinction: the collages recombine the framed images with new photographs of grapplers, surgical sufferers, anthropomorphic sculptures, and the photographer themself. In distinction to the framed images’ unpeopledness, the physique—a Pérez standby, together with tantalizingly wealthy shadowplay and the voyeur’s studied cool—has adopted us right here, although it, like location, have to be understood expansively. “guabancex,” says the artist, is a “meditation on…historic erasure, absence, resilience, presence,” on “being a part of a politically constructed physique of those who has been created to be moved, denied roots not simply as soon as, however in a number of eras and epochs, in a number of areas.”
—Davey Davis, September 2023