New England based artist, Alfred Perry, was busy, inspired and energized this past December 2020; 11 months into the Covid-19 pandemic, into the holidays and the end of a challenging year for everyone. Working in reverse compared to artists like Leonardo DaVinci whose multitudes of ink studies and sketches grew into larger, painted masterpieces, Perry pulled ideas from his own larger works and gave them a life of their own, in a series of 5” x 5” mixed media abstract artworks.
Each piece in the collection is mounted on black mat board and framed in a white, square frame - like windows looking out over a vast technicolor surreal landscape populated with a range of amusing, complex and standard shapes and lines. Secondary and tertiary colors dominate Perry’s palette that is sometimes punctuated with primary marks of red, yellow and blue.
Perry’s unique titling of his abstractions bring these artworks into the orbit of representational art. Titles including “#7. Guitar”, “#8. Carnival Time”, “#15. Cactus Trap”, “#21. Springtime”, “#23. Lollipops”, “#33. Splendorous Pottery”, “#33a. Small Mouth Whale”, “#34. Space Crab” act as signposts or trail markers that cause the viewer to search for something specific in the abstract arrangement, often succeeding despite being far removed from day to day observations. His titles stretch the imagination and create images out of nothing that we as an audience can both recognize and question in the same breath.
According to Perry, “These small, mini works are motivated from the larger ones. Each one can be interrupted by the viewer in their own way, finding things in it that I’ve never dreamt of seeing.” By accepting the varied interpretations that any onlooker may observe, Perry has capitalized on the crucial final stage of the creation of any artwork...letting it go, releasing control completely.
As any observer of art has experienced, it is our personal subconscious bias that dictates how we respond. Perry has acknowledged the fact that he will only be able to fulfill one part of the story and it is on the viewer to complete the rest. It is obvious, or ought to be in most cases, that the viewer of Perry’s artworks will land in a field of joy that is both dazzling and playful.
Taking a look into one of the mini works from the series, ‘#8. Carnival Time’ (above), Perry uses color, shape and line to paint a psychedelic landscape where pinwheels, ferris wheels or tent-pole structures doubling as trapeze artist roosts turn into massive flowers, or perhaps cotton candy, blooming in full force. The combination of secondary and tertiary colors help turn this idea of a normal landscape into something quite quirky. Considered ink line work, both controlled and experimental, both defines and overlays the application of color. The colors and shapes mashing up against one another or embracing each other without fading or overlapping bring the entire scene to a flat surface, putting the viewer in the position of an onlooker rather than a participant, back again to the view through a window.. While there is what appears to be a curved horizon line, it is unclear if the large orange and pale green circles in the back are symbolic of an atmosphere or not. Either way, this work has a story to tell, and to each viewer, a different story will reveal itself.
In ‘#33a. Small Mouth Whale’ (below), for example, we see the continuation of the color theme used in ‘#8. Carnival Time’. The shapes created by the color act as the foundation of the composition, and also act as the subject in the scene. The title's ‘Small Mouth Whale’ may be the pale purple form coming up from the bottom edge of the artwork, getting ready to eat food in the form of some legendary pink dot collared in turquoise ruffle that just might be its other eye.
Perry’s linear and splatter work is prevalent in both and carries on throughout the series. Clean lines drawn in pen and ink define shapes and space, giving context, composition and definition to the works. Splatter suggests movement or action and the open-ended continuation of the narrative gives the viewer’s imagination a chance to exercise; this keeps all of Perry’s abstract artworks vibrant and curious.
Throughout his career, Perry has worked in a wide range of styles from classic oil still life, land & seascapes to insightful abstract multimedia works. His ability to work successfully in so many styles is a tribute to his skills as an artist.
Perry received his BFA degree in painting from Massachusetts School of Art in 1953. Assigned to military duty in Europe, he participated in the restoration of murals in Austria and sketched throughout Europe, with a focus in Trieste, Italy. He exhibited his work in the first Boston Art Festival, Boston’s Jordan Shows and is currently represented in galleries in New York, Boston and New England, as well as in private and corporate collections. Although many of his oil paintings are impressionistic, Perry works abstractly and with mixed media as well, reaching back to his early roots from the 1950s.
Alfred Perry’s fun, energetic and whimsical abstract artworks are playful, fanciful, appealing and amusing, all at the same time.They are on view at Ellenbogen Gallery in Manchester, Vermont and online (click here). Collect one, several, or the entire series of eight, install them in a prominent location in your home or business and invite people to see them, wearing masks of course.