Irene Rice Pereira began her career as an artist in her twenties, working as a designer to help support her family after her father died. Originally from Boston, her family relocated to Brooklyn when she was just a child. She started taking art classes at a local high school at age 24, quickly excelling to enroll in night classes at the Art Students League within the next year. She studied under Jan Matulka there, who introduced students to the European avant-garde, leading her to study at the Académie moderne in Paris before traveling throughout Europe and North Africa. She returned to New York in 1933, landing a teaching position with the Work Progress Administration (WPA) Design Laboratory and her first solo exhibition with ACA Gallery.
Pereira was greatly inspired by the Bauhaus movement and how it drew parallels and formed relationships between art and science. Outside of the visual arts, she was interested in philosophy and poetry, things that played into her own work. She believed in the value of industry and industrialized material, describing Bauhaus as something that “…exerted the greatest influence on our entire social order.” One vital concept to the Bauhaus was that the needs of society dictate what should be learned or executed. Within her work, Pereira embraced abstraction and experimentation. She started exhibiting with semi-abstracted images, which she developed into full on abstraction, seeking to bring light into her work and playing with different materials and paints.