Lucas Justienien Pérez is an artist and calligrapher living in New York City. He received a B.F.A. in fashion design from Pratt Institute of Fine Arts (2004) and a M.F.A in Fine Arts from Parsons School of Design (2017). He studied calligraphy and Nihonga (Japanese painting) in Tokyo, Japan from 2009-2015. In 2017 Pérez became a certified as a Shihan (Master-Teacher) in the Shosenbu Calligraphy Group of Nagoya. Lucas has exhibited in New York and Tokyo and has won several awards for Japanese calligraphy at the Nagoya Naka-Ku Calligraphy Exhibition (2014, 2015, 2016). His most recent essay “Rectangular Panoramic Reality” was published in the Queens Museum’s 2017 Panorama Handbook.
The rectangle is the permissible space for bodies and ideas. My work is most often contained within them and now my work is about them. Since my graduate experience at Parsons, I have tried to understand why the rectangle became the shape of civilization. Modern humans are only 200,000 years old and yet we have been producing them for half that time. Clinical studies into altered states of consciousness report test cases seeing grids and rectangles when they enter into one of these states: rectangles are wired into the human brain. It’s the natural space for reality, because it’s proportional to the body, and binocular vision. Through my research I have tracked down the first known depiction of a rectangle produced by human hands: 77,000 year old diagonal hatch marks inscribed on a piece of red ochre found in a cave near Blombos, South Africa. From these early symbolic inscriptions on a block of pigment stone, the rectangle proliferated ubiquitously as humanity moved out of Africa and populated all six habitable continents. Everywhere people migrated they left rectangular depictions on rocks and in caves—from Europe to Asia, from Indonesia to Australia, from Siberia to Argentina—it seems people were enchanted by the rectangular shape. We continue to practice this ancient tradition with a new capitalistic zeal. We carry rectangles in our palms as smart devices that contextualize much of our contemporary experience.
In a series of short YouTube art videos, I explore the connections between prehistoric geometric mark-making and the screen as a surface for a new kind of hand writing of swipes, taps and drags; a digital style of “cave” painting where illusion and reality become harder to discern. Rectangular screens increasingly affect our “frameless” physical reality by a set of universal hand gestures. In the videos I tell the story of The History of Rectangular Culture through art, politics, religion, language, and the “transfer” of rectangular technology, from the prehistoric—to the modern age. This thread of research led me to graffiti art, that like cave painting is gestural and breaks the frame. I’m interested in how this urge to mark found surfaces challenged rectangular permissible spaces. In a recent recent work I provoke an interaction between permissible and impermissible spaces for graffiti mark making. I started “framing” tags I found on a length of wooden fence surrounding an empty lot, by drawing rectangles around each graffiti with an acrylic paint marker. Written beside one of the frames was the phrase “everything in its permissible space.” I felt that I was giving the graffiti permissible space, while trespassing the impermissible. In some cases the graffitos would respond to my frames by creating clusters or overlaying their tags over my frames. Then, by posting images of the interaction on Instagram, I used the social media frame to provide an additional “permissible” space for these marks. Every “like” notification that beamed from my screen became an affirmation of acceptance from others.
The fascination with marked surfaces developed from my extensive studies into Japanese calligraphy and painting while living in Tokyo for six years (2008-14). In May of 2017 I became a certified shihan or “master-teacher” of the practice in Japan. After leaving Tokyo and enrolling at Parsons I began to consider how I could hybridize this classical training with contemporary issues of permissible space. For my senior thesis entitled Appropriated I wanted to mark something historical; something with cultural value; to break down the frame; to transverse time and rigid classifications that stifle hybridity. So I used a a giant broom sized calligraphy brush to make a single horizontal calligraphic, DayGlo pink swipe across an antique silver leafed, folding screen from Japan (c. 1930). Through this single gesture I wanted to convey a slippage of authorship that challenged the value we put on impermissible space. In totality my work has consistently been about very ancient kind of “social media” that I want to extend into society by providing spaces and surfaces within communities, upon which artists and community members can interact in a dialogue of symbolic marks: a continuation of a 100,000 year old human practice
Glass Fence, curated by Cali Kurlan, October 28th-November 5th, 2017, 33 West 17th Street: New York, N.Y.
Second Nature, curated by Chelsea Haines, April 20-29, 2017; Westbeth Gallery: New York, N.Y.
God or the Equivalent, curated by Lucas Perez, February 6-20, 2017, East 15 Gallery: New York, N.Y.
Ueno Shodoten, December, 2015-16 (yearly show): Tokyo, Japan
*Awarded Honorable Mention, 2015
Hito Bito: solo show, December 9-15, 2014, Sukiwa Gallery: Tokyo, Japan
Naka-Ku Calligraphy Exhibition, May, 2012-15 (yearly show): Nagoya, Japan
Mainichi Shodoten, May, 2014, Roppongi Art Center: Tokyo, Japan