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Alejandro Almanza Pereda Escapes from New York

March 6, 2015

Why would an artist leave the greatest city in the world? Artist Alejandro Almanza Pereda lives out his own personal Escape from New York​ (1981)—the John Carpenter classic cult film—completing a big mission before time runs out. ​From his Hunter College MFA studio in Tribeca, Almanza Pereda recalls how the retro-future action film had a big impact on him as a kid growing up in Mexico. Set in a dystopian Manhattan that’s been turned into a prison, the film features anti-hero character Snake Plissken whose mission is to rescue the President before the time lapse bomb implanted in Plissken’s body explodes. Almanza Pereda sees today’s New York City as an inaccessible prison of a different sort: “It’s become a playground for really privileged people.” Almanza Pereda describes the disheartening, socially isolating environment that artists in New York now face.

With exorbitant rents for barely adequate studio spaces, artists are forced to maximize their time by either making money or art, with little opportunity to partake in the larger creative community that attracted them to the city in the first place. But like any good New Yorker, Almanza Pereda optimizes his best remaining asset—the three weeks that remain in his Hunter studio—and embarks on an ambitious new project before moving to Mexico City. He creates a DIY plywood aquarium in which he photographs classic table-top still lifes featuring his own treasured knickknacks and produce sourced from nearby Chinatown. Staging his arrangements upside down and underwater, Almanza Pereda is able to circumvent the rules of gravity in favor of a alternative world where objects counterintuitively float and sink. At times melancholy, sublime, and unpredictable, Almanza Pereda’s still lifes mirror his own bittersweet feelings about leaving New York: sadness over the loss of friends leavened with the promise of adventures in a new city.

More information and credits

Featuring music by Almanza Pereda’s band La Rubia te Besa and the artist’s video Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all (2014).


Art21 New York Close Up Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Editor:. Cinematography: Nick Ravich & Andrew Whitlatch. Sound: Nick Ravich. Design & Graphics: CRUX Studio & Open. Artwork: Alejandro Almanza Pereda. Music: La Rubia te Besa, Jose Luis Cortes, Jose Antonio Elguezabal, Roberto Galindo, & Juan Matus (Yodex). Thanks: Arizona State University Art Museum International Artist Residency at Combine Studios, Rowan Burkam, Natalee Cayton, Abelardo Cruz-Santiago, Greg Esser, Reiko Hamano, Hunter College, Sheetal Khanna-Ravich, Gordon Knox, Carrie Marill, Maira Monroy, Matthew Moore, Julio Cesar Morales, Lateral Move, Estrella Payton, Wayne & Alison Rainey, Birgit Rathsmann, Morgan Riles, Arkadiy Ryabin, Claudia Peña Salinas, Seung Yeon Huh, STUDIOCANAL & Zach Trow. An ART21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2015. All rights reserved.

Art21 New York Close Up is supported, in part, by The Lambent Foundation; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and by individual contributors.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Alejandro Almanza Pereda

Alejandro Almanza Pereda was born in 1977 in Mexico City. He formerly worked in New York, and currently lives and works between the United States and Mexico, maintaining his practice in both locales. Searching out vintage objects in flea markets and thrift stores, Almanza Pereda integrates mundane materials into large-scale sculptures that challenge both the durability of the objects and his ability to create a stable structure. Finding inspiration in the objects he selects, Almanza Pereda eschews narrative and prefers to focus on materiality.

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Underwater & Upside Down

Alejandro Almanza Pereda discusses the creation of “Everything but the kitchen sank,” his series of still lifes shot upside down and underwater in a DIY plywood aquarium.

Alejandro Almanza Pereda

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“I think everybody in the world should live in New York, for at least one or two years, to just kind of make sense of it.

But, it’s not the only lifestyle you can have. It’s not the only way of doing things.”

Alejandro Almanza Pereda