August 5, 2017
Irene Rice Pereira (1902-1971), The Spirit of Unity, acrylic on canvas, 32 1/8 x 42 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Richard L. and Marian N. Warner, 1973.
One of the early American Abstractionists, Irene Rice Pereira, was born on this day in Massachusetts in 1902. Pereira received her artistic training in the United States as well as in Europe, and she was most influenced by the abstract trends in art and the principles of the Bauhaus. Pereira first gained recognition in the 1930s, and in 1935 she joined the faculty at the industrial design school called Design Laboratory, which was funded by the Works Progress Administration. As her style developed, Pereira created many “machine paintings,” which were geometric abstract works that incorporated technological imagery. Often her artworks also experimented with involving unusual materials,
As her style developed, Pereira created many “machine paintings,” which were geometric abstract works that incorporated technological imagery. Often her artworks also experimented with involving unusual materials, including plastic, gold leaf, string, toy parts, glass, sand, tape, and electrified frames. A prominent artistic innovator, and a well-known art-philosopher and award-winning poet as well, Pereira achieved a lot of success – which was acknowledged by a 1953 retrospective exhibition of her work at the Whitney Museum in New York City. Now Pereira’s artworks are held by many museums throughout the United States.
Pereira’s The Spirit of Unity reflects her geometric abstract style. Linear and clear-cut, with geometric shapes, this acrylic painting has a mathematical feel. The color use of blue and yellow creates an interesting contrast in the painting – those colors are near opposites on the color wheel, and yet Pereira combines them together in a “spirit of unity.” An art philosopher as well as an artist, this was likely a deliberate move to send a message of compromise and unity.