Geraldo Perez

The Chicago Paintings

May 25 – June 23, 2019

Opening Reception: Saturday, May 25, 6 – 9 PM 

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I first met Geraldo Perez by chance in 2012. He invited me to his studio and I came by at his suggested time of 7am, a prime allotment for Perez,  who wakes up between 2am and 4am to paint before going to work most days. For several years while still in New York, Perez occupied a room in his brother’s rent-controlled Hell’s Kitchen apartment; blocks from his own rent-controlled Hell’s Kitchen apartment. Upon entering, I was taken aback by the stacks and rows and piles of paintings exploding out of the small closet he occupied. A small folding table was the only place to paint, yet hundreds of works had been completed here; on canvas, wall paper, white page booklets, butcher paper, and any other flat to flat-ish surface imaginable. A year later, Perez had moved to the suburbs of Chicago where he has been living and working ever since.

East Hollywood Fine Art is proud to present Geraldo Perez: The Chicago Paintings, a selection of paintings on canvas and phone books all made over the past 7 years. After being bought out of his New York apartment, Perez moved to the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois and purchased a house, where he was able to convert his entire basement into his studio. The Chicago Paintings present a survey of memories lived and experienced from Perez’s birth in 1962 in the Dominican Republic, to his family’s emigration to New York six years later, and to his day-to-day experiences with intimacy, family, and transition. The paintings reflect on a chance encounter with Basquait at Danceteria, studying under Jack Whitten and Dore Ashton at Cooper Union in the 2000’s, war and death in the DR, being a father, being brown, seeing the MOMA for the first time, making love, and so much more.

At first glance Perez’s oeuvre may seem like the work of several artists, but this specific energy is his unique voice. Influences are wide and varied in The Chicago Paintings; one can see the schizophrenia of Sigmar Polke mingling with the lines of Alex Katz, while figures explore strategies seen by Jacob Lawrence and Thomas Hart Benton. In Coming to the Dance (2015), people explode in all directions while a swimsuit-clad woman occupies the central composition. Jesters, dancers, musicians, superheroes, uptowners can all be seen in the hustle and bustle of the city presenting a blurred carousel of colors and movement. An almost timeless scene, the piece leaves the viewer wondering if this is a long night on the town, a collection of patchwork memories swirling together into a lucid dream, or both.

The strength and breadth in The Chicago Paintings comes from the unique language reflected through the images, almost screaming out: I am American but I am also an immigrant, I am a regular guy, but I am also a weirdo, I am a strong, but also soft. Two things can be true at the same time, maybe even more than two. The narrative weaves in and out of representation where color takes over for moments, other times a fabric pattern or an embossed wallpaper in the background take the lead. Whatever the source of Perez’s strange energy, the paintings fulfill a promise to open up the deeply personal of one person into the vast breadth of our own humanness, reminding us that even in our distance and assumed unfamiliarity, we too know these people, these experiences, and these places.

Words by Sebastian Gladstone.