Puerto Rico-born and New York-based artist Enoc Perez is an anomaly in the art world. He is a master craftsman and purveyor of fine arts: painting, sculpture, architecture, collage and other high-minded crafts transition from Perez’s mind to the canvas with shocking ease. But unlike some other modern masters, he doesn’t view technology, the Internet, or social media as an enemy; on the contrary, he approaches it with wide-eyed enthusiasm, “You kidding me?” asks Perez. “I love Instagram.”
Perez has found a way to marry his enthusiasm for the Internet and his tactile skills in his new show “Cut Shapes” at the Danziger Gallery in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. For the show, Perez sourced images from various women’s Instagram feeds and used cut out shapes to obscure the women’s faces and their more revealing body parts. What is left in the images is the essences of these women. By marrying digital imagery with tactile material, Perez proves that the two forms can most certainly co-exist, and even more so, can compliment one another to deliver a fresh way of viewing the modern world.
In an act of curatorial savvy, show curator and gallery owner James Danziger noticed that Perez’s work mirrored a series of images by artist and photographer Inge Morath. From 1959 to 1963, Morath and artist Saul Steinberg collaborated by doing a series of portraits of friends with their faces covered up by intriguing looking masks. Like Perez, Morath utilized traditional materials to create a new way of looking at technologically produced imagery. The take away from the two different sets of work created decades apart being displayed together is that the best artists have always paid heed to tradition while still embracing new ways to create art.
I caught up with Perez at the opening of “Cut Shapes” to talk about the show, his excitement about technology and why he loves portraying the auras of women.
Autre: I love the juxtaposition of your work with Inge’s, was she an inspiration or did you guys notice a similarity with your work and hers after yours was completed?
Enoc Perez: James picked up on it. It was not something I saw. I was familiar with her work and I was a big fan. But I hadn’t seen that particular group of images.
Autre: It was an act of curation?
Enoc Perez: It was curatorial, yeah. It was kind of cool when you think about it. Usually they group you in generational shows, and sometimes you share more similarities with artists that are not of your generation.
Autre: What I find interesting about this is that you’re applying tactile materials to digital imagery.
Enoc Perez: Yeah, of course, I’m a painter.
Autre: Are you a fan of the internet? Do you like being inundated with imagery?
Enoc Perez: I love it. It’s a new media and I think we are just trying to figure out what to do with it. It’s putting us in tremendous communication with the world. You can see what’s happening all over. The Internet can be like looking at art shows every day. With Instagram, you can curate shows in a way.
"It’s admiration; I love women. And actually to see the pictures that women post or take of themselves is far more beautiful than pictures of women that men have taken. Women get it, they know what works, and in a way they are more powerful.
Autre: And so many people that don’t have access to galleries, people from small rural towns, are getting turned onto amazing stuff through this new media.
Enoc Perez: Exactly, and it’s a way of representing yourself and how you want to be seen. Which actually relates to this work: all these pieces come from feeds of women that are posting themselves. This is how they want to be seen. To me, that’s a good place to start the collage: a co-existence of high and low culture.
Autre: Always the best when they are together (laughs)
Enoc Perez: I love low culture as much as I love high culture, so why not put them together?
Autre: One thing that I thought was interesting is the obscuring of the faces, the nipples, etc..
Enoc Perez: In a way, it’s a comment on the censorship of Instagram and other social media feeds. On Instagram, you have no idea how many of my posts have been taken down, it’s kind of silly but in a way they give us a starting point to make art and define the figure. Or not define it. So why censor it?
Also, I don’t know these women, so I have to be respectful, I don’t want their whole identities there. What I want is the figure, the essence, and the beauty that I love so much.
Autre: When you’re portraying women, is it romantic, is it sensual?
Enoc Perez: It’s admiration; I love women. And actually to see the pictures that women post or take of themselves is far more beautiful than pictures of women that men have taken. Women get it, they know what works, and in a way they are more powerful. As I started looking through these feeds, and I remember talking with Richard Prince about this, these feeds are gold mines of imagery. They are right there, in the public domain.
Autre: And Richard saw this happening years ago.
Enoc Perez: Yes, he did. We all have news ways of digesting and approaching new media. It’s all there, so why not embrace it?
Autre: And our accounts function as weird portals to our brains: our likes, our dislikes, our perversions and more.
Enoc Perez: It’s there, and so what? We can look; we’re not dead. It’s a way to see what’s happening culturally in the world right now. The reason these pictures work is because they look like today looks.
Inge Morath 'Masquerades' & Enoc Perez 'Cut Shapes' will be on view until June 13, 2015 at Danziger Gallery. See more photographs from the opening here. Text, interview and photographs by Adam Lehrer. Follow Autre on instagram to stay up to date: @AUTREMAGAZINE