Watch as Brooklyn-Based Artist Elle Pérez Shows How Photographs Are the ‘Perfect Container’ for Gender and Identity

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the Art21 "New York Close Up" film, "Elle Pérez Works Between the Frame." © Art21, Inc. 2019.

The Bushwick-based photographer Elle Pérez has just wrapped up a banner year in New York, and is now poised for an even bigger 2019. The Public Art Fund just announced Pérez’s commission for this summer, in which the artist’s photographs of queer and Latinx communities in New York will be plastered onto more than 100 bus shelters around the city. The transient nature of photography—and sometimes gender too—lends itself particularly well to this project.

In an exclusive interview with Art21, part of its “New York Close Up” series, Pérez explains, “You can use photography to depict things that you actually cannot picture.” Those nameless entities or feelings take on a kind of substance in Pérez’s work. Photographs, in this way are “a perfect container because it is not actually, ever, definitive.”

The artist’s work will also be included in the upcoming Whitney Biennial, which opens May 17 in New York.

Watch the full segment, which originally appeared as part of the “Art in the Twenty-First Century” television series on PBS, below. The Public Art Fund’s “from sun to sun: Elle Pérez” will be on view from August 13 through November 24, 2019. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship Art in the Twenty-First Century television is available now on PBS. Watch full episodes and learn about the organization’s education programs at

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