I met Emilio Perez and his wife, Micaela Giovanotti, during Art Basel Miami Beach 2013. In January, I had the pleasure to attend the opening of Footprints on the Ceiling; his third solo exhibit with Galerie Lelong. Footprints is one of the best shows I have seen this year. I was impressed by the scale of the pieces, one of which occupied two walls: the first wood panel took up several feet in length and it was joined through another wood piece shaped as a curve attached to second panel that was hanging on a perpendicular wall. What seemed as perfectly drawn abstract clouds, upon closer inspection revealed layers and layers of paint and exquisitely fine carve-outs. Of course, I needed to have Emilio here, understand his technique and dig to find the inspiration behind what he does.
And so I was really happy to have visited Emilio’s studio in Buschwick on what started as possibly the coldest and rainiest day of the year and turned into a sunny and beautiful winter day. Definitely influenced by the Baroque and its woodcuts, Emilio’s Cuban background also informs his world and aesthetic through a vibrant use of color and a what I see as an optimistic feeling in his work. A pair of congas is set in the middle of the studio, a classic guitar is resting against a drawing table and a jukebox is close to the wall. I can feel the vibe and can only imagine how many parties may have taken place in his studio.
Emilio is an amazing draftsman, has produced beautiful prints with Pace Prints and has even worked on surfboards but his true love is painting. Not in vain, Emilio’s has been called in art circles as the “Painter’s Painter” because every time he gets to work on his wood panels, the incredible compositions that he is able to put together are accomplished intuitively, everything comes from the inside. There’s no sketching, no planning. Emilio perfectly fits the definition of an artist who was born with a gift and thankfully shares it with the world.
His process requires the painting of several layers of enamel and acrylic which he then peels away with an x-acto blade, discovering new colors and textures. The results are breathtaking low reliefs that draw the spectator in and make people want more. Although Emilio humbly says that there must be someone else doing what he does, I tell him that he has to quickly come up with a name for the whole painting-layering-carving-peeling because it is so unique and so compelling, that it will become his “trademark”.
I didn’t want to leave because I was having so much fun; I even peeled a panel myself and could have probably started a party if only I had more time. Meanwhile, I found more inspiration on Artspace, which has some of Emilio’s pieces for sale including a few smashingly good prints and an impossibly beautiful one-of-a-kind panel that can be purchased with the click of a mouse. Yes, please.