Follow @the31women on social media!
Irene Rice Pereira (1907-1971) was an influential American artist known for her abstract paintings and innovative use of materials. Born in Chelsea, a suburb of Boston, MA, she moved to New York as a child and spent most of her life and career there. Although largely an autodidact, Pereira studied at the Art Students League in New York from 1927-1930 and at New York University in the early 1920s.
Pereira's first solo exhibition took place at the A.CA. Gallery in 1933, and she was an established New York artist by the late 1930s. In 1931, Pereira traveled solo to Paris, Italy, and Africa, as her husband at the time, artist Umberto Pereira, did not want to join her. Their unhappy marriage ended in divorce in 1938. She later married engineer George Willington Brown in 1942, and they remained together until 1950.
From 1935 to 1939, Pereira was a founding member of the WPA-sponsored Design Laboratory in New York. She later taught design courses at Pratt Institute. Her early work was figurative, focusing on themes of man, machine, and technology. However, she transitioned to non-objective art in 1937, inspired by the Bauhaus movement and C. Howard Hinton's book The Fourth Dimension.
Pereira was recommended for the Exhibition by 31 Women by Alfred Barr, founding director of the Museum of Modern Art. Key artworks from this exhibition include "View" and "Defraction," both painted on glass panels that Pereira sandwiched together and framed herself. "View" is now part of the Butler Institute of Art collection in Youngstown, OH, while the location of "Defraction" remains unknown.
Pereira's work is characterized by her use of glass, metal, industrial plastics, and reflective substances. Her art is often hard-edged and crystalline, with sharply defined horizontal and vertical lines and thickened pigment raised slightly from the canvas's surface. She painted on various materials, including glass, parchment, plastic, canvas, and Masonite.
Pereira developed an obsession with optics and the ways light interacted with her paintings. Her influence and recognition led to retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art in 1946 and the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1953. She authored several publications, including "The Nature of Space" (1956), "The Lapis" (1957), and "The Transcendental Formal Logic of the Infinite" (1966).
Irene Rice Pereira passed away in Málaga, Spain, in 1971 due to severe emphysema. Her papers and archives are housed at the Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. Despite challenges she faced as a woman in the art world, which led her to adopt the name "I. Rice Pereira" to avoid gender-based judgment, she left a lasting legacy as a pioneering artist and educator.