Emilio Perez

Emilio Perez, fishing while you dream

Emilio Perez, fishing while you dream Photo Courtesy of Gallerie Lelong

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

Emilio Perez makes exuberant abstract paintings by cutting with an X-Acto blade into layers of latex and acrylic paint, and peeling the cut sections off a dark gray ground. This direct way of working, without preparatory sketches or plans, endows his compositions with some of the freshness and associative potential of automatic drawing. It also creates the sharpest of edges between light and dark, giving his panels the graphic boldness of comic books, cartoons or graffiti. But they also recall the high art related to those popular forms, from Roy Lichtenstein’s parodic “brushstrokes” and Mike Kelley’s piles of shit to Medieval woodcuts and Northwest Coast Indian art.

The image in the largest work on view, drowning on dry land, covers three panels and suggests a tunneling black-and-white space, shot through with gray oblongs resembling aircraft wings. Masses of compressed forms in pale, “off” hues swarm over and through this framework like extruded ribbons or intestinal kudzu. Thin carved lines in some areas attest to the artist’s overcutting, yet remain virtually unnoticed beneath the glossy varnish that imparts a slick perfection to the surface.

In born all over, similar relationships of tinted figure to black-and-white ground whirl in an explosion of shapes that seem to want to become animated characters. Perez almost depicts a non-Euclidian space (akin to Matta’s psychologically inflected worlds) invaded, science-fictionally, by quasi-organic entities—but not quite. Abstract, painterly invention trumps the tug toward representation here. With these paintings Perez reimagines Surrealism for the graphic novel, or Abstract Expressionism for anime.

Galerie Lelong, through Oct 13 (see Chelsea)