Puerto Rican artist Enoc Perez likes to refer to himself as an architecture groupie. He even shows it in his work, immortalizing buildings like the Riviera Hotel in Havana as well as the Lipstick Building and One World Trade Center in New York in his paintings. On April 8, MTV Re:Define—a benefit for the Staying Alive Foundation and Dallas Contemporary—honored Perez last week at its annual benefit, which raised $2.5 million. Document spoke to Perez about his love for architecture, his work and his plans for the future.
JASMINE—Can you tell us a bit more about your piece here this evening?
ENOC—That’s a painting of the Lipstick Building [in New York, designed by Philip Johnson]. It was a group of six paintings that I made because I was going to be doing, well, I did, a show at Philip Johnson’s Glass House. [The Lipstick Building] is one of my favorite buildings of his, even though it’s notoriously Bernie Madoff’s building, but its one of the few curved buildings Philip did. I tend to like that and I made it for the Glass House. So the whole idea of the Glass House, to me, is very much about having harmony – so I did this group of very colorful paintings, all with gold base. Because in his buildings, [Philip] liked to use brass or gold for all the metal finishes that went into those. Since I was doing a show at his house, I thought it would be a nice touch.
JASMINE—When you are painting, is it very intellectual or emotional?
ENOC—I’m kind of like a natural painter. I come up with ideas first, and I don’t paint without having an idea. Sometimes the medium leads you to that which you were looking for, or that which you didn’t even know you were looking for – these major ideas.
JASMINE – When you started painting, were you painting in this same style?
ENOC—No, you know I started painting whatever I like. The rule is still true today. I was, for a long period, single. I was making paintings of the women I met in bars. And then what happened, I met my wife Carol, and when I met her she was married to somebody else. And I wanted to do a show about her. So I had to do the show in code, because I didn’t want to get her in trouble or get myself in trouble. The guy was bigger than me. [laughs] So I knew of this hotel in Puerto Rico that was designed by a Puerto Rican architect as a love letter to his French wife. Carol’s French, so making that picture made a lot of sense for that show. And this is where I tell you, that the medium takes you to the ideas. Then I have the little painting hanging in the studio for like two weeks and I realize, this is like a ready made in a Duchampian sense. It’s like painting a movie star, you know. I’m like an architectural groupie and that’s why I knew the story of this building. So I paint buildings. It’s about painting what you love – of course some of the highest ideas come when you’re sitting with the work and reflecting. And that’s the beauty of doing paintings.
JASMINE—How long did it take you to do this painting?
ENOC—Probably like a month, month and a half. It’s big, 120some inches. But it needed to be big, I made it to fit inside the Glass House’s painting gallery, and it fit on the walls perfectly. And then I’m going to be making some big art for Dallas next year.
JASMIN—So you’ve had these difference series and I’ve read that you hunt for inspiration. What’s your new inspiration for 2016 and what are you thinking about?
ENOC—I’m going to be doing a new show at the Dallas Contemporary in September 2017 and since I started with Philip Johnson, I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of Philip Johnson’s work here in Dallas. And in Texas. So I’m going to do a show about Phillip Johnson in Texas. I have also found out a lot of information about him through my research – some positive, some very negative. My job is not to judge, to work with what I have. Let’s see what I come up with
JASMINE—You’re here with MTV and Re:define being honored by them. What does that mean to you?
ENOC—I have a relationship with the [Dallas Contemporary] because I’m going to be doing a show with them. But MTV, I grew up with MTV! I mean, I’m an 80s child, and like a kid, we watched MTV. And you know, it’s kind of cool. Artists usually get residencies, or scholarships; this is kind of a lot more glamorous. Feel like I’m going Hollywood! [laughs]
ENOC—Thank you very much!