Emilio Pérez

Lelong, New York

By Lisset Martínez Herryman | May 15, 2014

Emilio Pérez’s third solo exhibition at Galerie Lelong, New York, includes recent paintings on wood panels, as well as a triptych executed during his residency at the Lux Art Institute in California in 2011, on view for the first time in the city.

Emilio Pérez

This coincidence of works from two different periods reveals a new compositional dynamics. In his latest paintings, he has begun to place the central figures in a wider referential space, emphasizing the three-dimensional appearance that characterizes it.

This effect is achieved thanks to new spatial references – the background now occupies larger areas within the painting – and to the technique he uses, which has been a mark of identity. His work is known for a very specific procedure in the combination of painting and drawing. He starts by covering the wood panel with a layer of paint which will be the background, and then he adds layers of latex to create a surface on which he paints and “draws” using a knife. What we term ‘drawing’ is actually a process of cuts and incisions on the latex that results in reliefs and in the final three-dimensional effect.

The resulting images are representations which are hard to identify; they
are on the border between figuration and abstraction. There are undulated, convoluted forms delineated by the marks made by the knife, as if the artist were trying to bring some order to chaos through drawing or the demarcation of spaces. The colors remain within a uniform color gamut, with few exceptions featuring strong contrasts.

Pérez’s forms evoke the drawings found in comic books or in Pop art, characterized by their graphic emphasis. There is in all of them a dynamic strength, a movement that often recalls that of sea waves (so close to Pérez’s experience, since he is a surfer), and which is the result of an intuitive rather than a reasoned approach.

His way of addressing the creative process is essentially gestural, which links him to Abstract Expressionism. He confesses that he does not have a well-defined plan before working on each piece. His personal experiences, to which he adds sensory memories and a special relationship with the pictorial tradition of the Great Masters, converge at the moment of creating. Hence the intuitive nature of his proposals.

Emilio Pérez was born in New York and grew up in Miami, and all the references to nature (the ocean, vines), music and culture play a part in the wealth of experiences that infuse his works with a visceral meaning. Another of the influences he acknowledges is that of pulp fiction and sci-fi cover art. In fact, the titles of his works – including the title of this exhibition – seem to refer to specific situations, but they are selected from the mentioned sources in a sort of game he plays with the viewer.

This recent exhibition by Emilio Pérez responds to the concern regarding how an artist with an advanced maturity can be simultaneously prolific and diverse, and at the same time, poses quandaries as to the path his proposals will embark on. In any case, since in each work there is an offering of the most profound experience, we who receive it must be ready to appreciate not only its visual quality, but also its vital élan.