Enoc Pérez: Beauty, Pleasure, and Nostalgia in Art

In “Enoc Pérez: la belleza, el placer y la nostalgia de su voz en el arte,” Marcos del Valle (El Adoquín Times) reviews the artistic trajectory of Enoc Pérez and his ongoing exhibition “Las islas del encanto.”  [Also see previous post Las islas del encanto.]

“I paint about my life, about how I feel, about what I can’t put into words.” Enoc Pérez

Raised around art, reading related international magazines, or visiting important museums led by his father, who was an art critic, Enoc Pérez began to nurture the interest that he has carried throughout his life. At a moment when the current computer immediacy did not exist, he visited workshops and took courses with the visual art masters of the time. Such were the beginnings of the person that the art world recognizes as a Puerto Rican visual artist—born in Río Piedras in 1967 and based in New York. Currently, he is showing Las islas del encanto, curated by Juan Carlos López Quintero, at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico in Santurce.

From an early age, little Enoc Pérez had a strong inclination for the arts. Between the ages of eight and nine, he discovered an art school behind his home in Río Piedras. He asked his parents to enroll him in the Andrés Bueso Art Academy. He also took workshops with plastic arts masters of the stature of Antonio Maldonado.

“I met many artists like José AliceaLorenzo Homar, and Rafael Tufiño; I went to their workshops. Always with a lot of respect towards them… having been exposed to so much art because my dad took me to museums since I was a child. In 1970 we went to New York to see Guernica (Pablo Picasso) which was in the Museum of Modern Art, as well as the Museo del Prado (Spain) and the Louvre (France) museums. These kinds of things inspire you. With the little notebooks they had in the hotels, I drew what I saw.”

As the young man matured, his interest in important international artists such as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat increased. He wanted to be part of that international scene that was taking place in New York City. At 19, he went to New York to study art at the Pratt Institute. The city of skyscrapers became part of his life. He worked and rubbed shoulders with artists exhibiting in Soho galleries in the city. Little by little his career grew, as he himself expressed, “This was not something that happened overnight.” In a small gallery on Broadway, he began to exhibit his work more regularly. Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, even as a student, he participated in exhibitions in local galleries such as Botello.

Regarding his artwork, the painter expressed in an interview how he prefers to talk about his life: “I took photos of my friends ‘hanging out’. The first paintings that I started to do were of my friends watching TV, drinking, hanging out… Eventually my career picked up speed when I started to develop a method to make the paintings in monotype colors…it was important to me to create a type of painting that had a link to some of the masters I had met, it was a mixture of Warhol and Basquiat… I wanted to develop graphic work in my paintings; I found a way to make the monotypes that I do. I can complete a figurative painting without using paint brushes in a graphic way. Consequently, I was able to develop my own language in my paintings.”

Then, in the mid-1990s, Enoc Pérez began to make paintings of women to whom he may have felt attracted but did not dare to address up close. He would ask their permission to photograph them and then he would go to his workshop to paint them: “That started to resonate because people found it a bit sad. There was a lot of prejudice against Puerto Ricans. They saw me as a skirt chaser, that was not the point; there was a lot of envy.”

Architecture is another subject of interest for Enoc, which is why he has integrated it into many of his works. This practice of design and construction is something he has identified with since the 1990s when he began expanding his collection of books on the subject.

“One of the paintings that I exhibited was of the Hotel Normandie, since I knew the story of Félix Benítez Rexach and how he decided to create this building as a gift to his French wife. My wife is also French—a Puerto Rican artist and a French woman…. The painting of the Normandie Hotel was like a painting of her, but in code… It may be contradictory, that I identify with them (hotels) because they are symbols of the colony, but they are subjects that attract me. A Boricua’s personality is not easy [to decipher],” he says. [. . .]

Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For full review in Spanish, see https://www.eladoquintimes.com/2023/01/07/enoc-perez-la-belleza-el-placer-y-la-nostalgia-de-su-voz-en-el-arte/

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