A sniper painter by Rodrigo Alonso. “I am a sniper painter. I stayed away of tendencies and schools. My work is sustained by more than 10 years of career painting". Pérez Celis, 1971. Answer to an interview by Roque Escobar in "Pérez Celis From La Boca to Paris". Clarín Review, Buenos Aires, 31/10/1971.
Vida y Muerte diptych (1966) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
Towards the end of the 60’s decade, Pérez Celis has already defined the general frame of his poetics and delimited a horizon of images and forms that drives him in the journey of creation. His travels through Latin-America and afterwards thru the Pampa lead him towards an exploration of space and of vernacular symbols that differentiate his artistic search from any other of the artists of his generation. His work corpus has already won the label of Americanism and is widely recognized in our country and in the rest of the world. The successive prizes and participations in Biennales and other international exhibitions trace his career when bordering the age of 30. Nevertheless, attentive to his time, his works reflect the profound changes that burst around him.
The arrival of the mass media with their load of vibrant images, the development of pop art, the spreading of technology, the space career and its correlative relation with the science fiction cinema, the hippy movement and its demands of a radical liberty as well as the social conflicts of the Vietnam War, leave a permanent mark in the life and the sensibility of the members of this historic movement, so unique, and in a way permeates the unstoppable production of the Argentinean artist.
Drawing (1966) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
Facing these circumstances, Pérez Celis adopts a very optimistic attitude. He declares in an interview for Crónica Newspaper on his voyage to U.S.A.:
"The very day I arrived I witnessed the march of the hippies towards the Pentagon. I was deeply impressed by the demonstration of that youth, who let their hair grow long, that lives dirty and intentionally abandoned, but also is cannon-fodder for sterile wars. They were preaching for peace in their own way, starting a campaign in favor of love….. There, I realized that my painting has as one of its purposes to communicate with young people. I wish to show the positive aspects of the world, that by the way, improved quite a lot in spite of the trouble" (II). This optimism incarnates in his impassioned chromatism as the 1960 decade finishes and the next one starts. The replacement of the oil by acrylic produces surfaces increasingly even and give to the figures a flat and synthetic status, reminiscent of graphics, with a finishing that hides the gestural marks. Manos al sol (1967) or Alas al tiempo (1967) retain the significant forms of the native cultures of the South America, but they come very close as chromatism and style to the schematics of the pop artists.
Manos al Sol
Drawing inspired by La Pampa (1967) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
"Each period in Art History - guarantees the artist – berries the death of the previous one. But this is a death that leads to renovation. In my case, I realized that instinctively I started to be more connected with graphics: with the pigments, the way of facing the painting, that was a bit influenced by the pop art and other things that were showing up". (II)
Alas al tiempo (1967) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
This contact with graphic art it is not forced as Pérez Celis had worked as a graphic designer, and during these years he also produces murals and tapestry. Through them he establishes a link with the popular art and everyday life that makes his approximation to pop not an uncritical adoption of an alien esthetics, but rather, a genuine relationship with his vital milieu.
Alas al tiempo
Serigraph (1967) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
As a matter of facts it should be wrong to consider the works of Pérez Celis from this period as pop. The pop is basically urban, metropolitan, while Celis work draws his sources from the native settlements from La Pampa. The pop identifies the popular with the consumer society whereas Celis finds them in the forms and products of our native communities. The pop is flat and superficial, while Celis paintings aim at the profoundness and the spirit. Anyway if something from this artistic current attracts our artist, probably it is the absolute freedom at the time of creation (as pop does not understand the art as the result of a stylistic evolution), its esthetic innovations (the impassioned chromatism, the immediateness in acrylic painting, the reminiscences of graphics, etc.) and the openness to explore the possibilities of the consciousness (that is perceived in the movement of the psychedelic culture).
Text José Gómez Sicre Director Visual Arts
Sara, Pérez Celis and Rafael Squirru in Washington
Cruz tiempo (1967) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
The acrylic paint in the 60s was a new media, represented the new, taking over the traditional paint. Pérez Celis brings it back with him from his first voyage to Washington.
In an interview in Mexico, in 1984, after years of using acrylic paint, he answered the question of why he was using it. Pérez Celis explained:
“The acrylic paint give us the color of our time, it shows our perception of color, which clearly has changed. We must not forget that through the neon lights, the technicolor movie, and even our clothes, we see that the perception of color is different. I think than, that precisely the acrylic gives us this new vision. Probably, this type of color, used 30 years ago, would have chocked us much more. On top of everything this paint enables a speedier technique to elaborate the work thus coinciding with our time. It is well known that the present art reaches more people, that there is more access, while before the works belonged to a few. Under those circumstances, a painter could maybe paint a work for 15 years , while now does more than 15 a year."
The psychedelics and its search for going beyond ordinary reality find some echoes in the paintings from this period. According to Maria Jose Herrera, the movie 2001 The Space Odyssey (1969) by Stanley Kubrick, has had a singular impact on the artist; in it “Celis saw a vertigo of images,similar to his own, a centrifuge sensation of space, similar to the one that he had developed in the works of that time” (III). The space in paintings as Paisaje extemporal (1968) or Homenaje a Rafael Squirru (1968) keep indeed an astonishing similarity with the famous scene of tunnel in the above mentioned film, inspired in the psychedelic visions of John Whitney’s researches.
Paisaje Ideal (1968) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
Nevertheless Celis finds this cosmic space in a place far closer: the endless extensions of the Pampa’s plains. In his own words: "I am trying to express the huge telluric force that irradiates in this region of our country. La Pampa is the best starting point to enunciate the American. In some way Argentina is already – through the infinite Pampa- within the space that cosmonauts talk about" (IV).
De La Pampa al Sur (1968) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
This space it is far away from the tradition of landscape; we can almost say that it is located at the antipodes. Because Perez Celis does not try to recreate the resemblances of the elemental fields, but their emotional and symbolic effects. The Venezuelan critic Roberto Guevara describes the works of this period as follows: "His work is a fantastic version of layers, phosphorescent landscapes, odd synthesis of primeval shapes that far from forming in its wholeness an abstract composition, eventually, are paintings that are brimming chromatic incandescence, poetic visions that remind more the instinct than the geometry" (V).
The first Engravings Museum is born, Reuquecura 3 rd Prize LVII Plastic Arts National Show
Perez Celis portrait , first prize "Personality " Show Picture by Feliciano Jeanmart
The series of white paitings was the result of the impression caused by a strong snowfall in Quemú Quemú La Pampa.The technique used was to saturate all the colors to white
Tribute to Ricardo Güiraldes
Al encuentro del camino
3rd Prize National Fine Arts Show
Tribute to Rafael Squirru
Nuestra razón (1971) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
"My symbology and sign repertoire ripened, developed. It does not circumscribe any longer to the primitive elements of remote civilizations, but conquers the territory of the new one, the less known, of the space. The cosmic" (VI).
Hand made carpet done by Sara , his wife
Encuentro al Sur (1971) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
The titles acquire an evocative characteristic “Paisaje y resureccion /Lanscape and resurrection “(1971) ” Oraculo del Sol/ Sun Oracle “(1973)’ Viaje imaginario /Imaginary voyage “(1974) “Alturas secretas/Secret heights "(1974)warn about the secret connexion between space and its spiritual projections. The Americanist references dilute into configurations of planes, lines and colors that impact straightforward into perception, through powerful and rhythmic structures and vibrant chromatic effects.
Mural 2417 Jorge Luis Borges Street, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Calle Jorge Luis Borges 2417, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Archive file (1972)Pérez Celis - Museo Virtual
Aquisition Award National Plastic Arts Show
Un horizonte para todos (1972) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
Oráculo del sol
Pintura (1974) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
Photography by Daphne Dougall de Zileri
Self portrait to observe The Jury, last paiting sent to the National Plastic Arts Show
Archive picture (1974)Pérez Celis - Museo Virtual
Archive picture (1974) by Ernesto Regales Blow-up StudíoPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
Nevertheless, mid-seventies, the original elements return in the paintings of Perez Celis, mainly through figures of an allegoric fauna. Ascenso y descenso indamericano ,Homenaje a Leopoldo Marechal (1975) Pájaro de la eternidad (1976) Parahansa-Gran cisne sagrado, are a few that testimony this work series.
Ascenso y descenso indoamericano
Tribute to Léopoldo Marechal
América la elección del despertar (1975) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
América la elección del despertar
The painting that, according to his manifestation, was most time consuming to achieve, having the premonition that his life was about to change. Driving to Rosario they had a car accident, his wife Sara died and he was intubated for several months. Over the turtle's shell he had painted a woman's shattered body.
"The spiral coming out of the heart represents the Man who turns back to himself, to his own center, who projects his emotions on the innermost core of his being, willing to unlock the jail of his material confinement and reach his inner freedom and his right to fully participate in Universal life". Guillermo Nazar
Poetry book by Carlos Maria Caron, drawings by Pérez Celis, after Sara' s death.
Retrato (1976) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
Portrait of Osvaldo Giesso
The idea of sacred becomes more and more important but without any referral to specific religious or spiritual doctrine. It rather looks like a search of sacred personified in the plastic matter itself. There is a return to textured surfaces and chiaroscuro suggesting mysterious and secret spaces.
“De lo material a lo spiritual (1977) Mitología sagrada (1977) En las cosas sagradas(1978) are some of the works that mark this new course, that coincides with the move to Venezuela, where he sets temporarily his residence.
Paramahansa Gran cisne sagrado
El pájaro de la eternidad
El silencio de nuestros pájaros atraviesa lo desconocido (1976) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
La presencia vertical (1977) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
Since he lives in Venezuela – underlines Roberto Montero Castro – his painting experienced various changes. The color pallet got lighter, has brighter primary [colors] and his earthly [colors] are warmer. As regards the structure of the image, Perez Celis is working with overlapping planes, in advancing space. Now there is a prominent diagonal disposition in his geometrical forms, compensated by verticals. The horizontal line is barely present.(VIII)
Mutaciones de la conciencia (1977) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
“There are three Americas. The euro (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay) Indo (Mexico, Bolivia, Peru) and Afro (the Caribbean) but there is Venezuela, where all this is represented... Yes: I paint with acrylic, because it is more durable and less changeable. Venezuela, after a trip to Ciudad Bolívar, has made me paint with ochre, grey, I paint with less color than before less hot colors ; it is an evolution that I owe to Venezuela”. Pérez Celis interview in Nuevos Horizontes /Fígaro Caracas 22 July 1978
Fuerzas luminosas (1977) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
As a landscaper that is, Perez assumes the verticality that surrounds him in the same way as before made us participate in the pampean horizons that he traveled. Valid reference, the physical environment would be poor explanation to investigate the integral messages of his current art.
It is all Venezuela that is under his skin as it corresponds to the sensitive spirit of excellence that is the spirit of the artist.
Diario Horizonte Cultural. Caracas around 1978.
De extraordinarias fuentes (1977) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
Poderes desconocidos (1977) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual
Del libro de las mutaciones (From the Book of Changes)
Pérez Celis had a certain fascination with The ( I Ching) Book of Changes. He dedicated a series of drawings in Paris and a series of paintings in New York
Pérez Celis with De la ciudad perdida (1978)Pérez Celis - Museo Virtual
La puerta de la libertad (1978) by Pérez CelisPérez Celis - Museo Virtual