Rouquié Alain, Frérot Christine and Molina Cuesta, Juan Antonio, Marta María Pérez Bravo, Esprits de corps, Paris, Association pour la Fondation France-Amérique Latine, 2013
Algo mágico, Centro de la Imagen, Mexico City, 1998→
Esprits de corps, Maison de l’Amérique Latine, Paris, 2013
The Mexican-based photographer Marta María Pérez graduated with a degree in painting from the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes San Alejandro in Marianao, outside Havana, in 1979 and from the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana in 1984. Since the mid-1980s M. M. Pérez has made black-and-white photographs that typically show a part of her body (rarely her face) in what Ana Belén Martín-Sevillano has described as a “static performance.” A trademark of M. M. Pérez’s staged photographs is the centrality of an image that is both surrounded by a diffused focus and contrasted against an iridescent white background. Combining parts of her body, often arranged in unconventional ways, with objects such as oars or candles, she references aspects of the African-Cuban religions of Santería and Palo Monte. Uninitiated in these religions, she has nonetheless turned to African-Cuban mythology to express female spirituality.Titles function in her photographs as inscriptions recalling omens based on Santería or Palo Monte beliefs but also directed to the experience of being a woman. For instance, in the series Para concebir [To conceive, 1985-1986] and in Macuto (1992), she brings to the fore her own experience as a mother. Macuto articulates motherhood as devotion and the artist’s drive to protect her twins, who are represented in the charm M. M. Pérez holds in front of her heart. Nevertheless, some of the works in this series are transgressive of the taboos related to maternity and the feminine in these syncretic belief systems.
Her work, along with that of the artists Juan Francisco Elso Padilla (1956-1988) and José Bedia (born in 1959), is paradigmatic of a time when Cuban artists were renewing their artistic vocabulary while rediscovering their non-Western roots. As a woman and a photographer, Pérez is unique in her exploration of African-Cuban beliefs through the lens of gender. Her work has been included in many international exhibitions, such as the Havana Biennial (1989, 1991, 2006, 2009), 21st Bienal de São Paulo (1991), and 5th Istanbul Biennial (1997). Her photographs are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston; Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, in Florida; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana; Pori Art Museum in Finland; Ludwig Forum in Germany; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, and Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo in Badajoz in Spain. Since the mid-1990s M. M. Pérez has lived and worked in Mexico City.
© Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Marta María Pérez, Basta ver como brillan [Just see how they shine], 2000, silver gelatin photograph, 50 x 40 cm, Courtesy Marta María Pérez
Marta María Pérez, Cultos paralelos, 1 [Parellel Cults 1], 1987, silver gelatin photograph, Courtesy Marta María Pérez
Marta María Pérez, No matar niver matar animales [Neither to Kill nor to Watch Animals Being Killed], 1985-1986, silver gelatin photograph, 24 x 30 cm, Courtesy Marta María Pérez
Marta María Pérez, No son míos, [They are not mine], 2010, photographie numérique, 80 x 80 cm, Courtesy Marta María Pérez
Marta María Pérez, Nunca me abandona II [They never abandons me II], 2001, silver gelatin photograph, Courtesy Marta María Pérez
Marta María Pérez, Peticiones, 3 [Petitions, 3] 2017, silver gelatin photograph, Courtesy Marta María Pérez
Marta María Pérez, Proteccion [Protection], 1990, photogravure, 66 x 66 cm, Courtesy Marta María Pérez
Marta María Pérez, Una Sombra [A Shadow], 2000, silver gelatin photograph, Courtesy Marta María Pérez