George Perez, Boulder artist and exiting RedLine resident, creates photo-based work comments on modern life, freely mixing found images and new media to turn portraiture on its ear. We invited Perez to discuss his influences and dreams via the 100CC questionnaire. Travel along….
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be and why?
George Perez: Robert Rauschenberg. I’m really interested in his combine paintings, for which he used non-traditional materials and objects to create what were innovative combinations for the time. I feel like there was some sort of a reconstruction aspect of the ’50s that he was trying to make sense of — something I want to do now for our times. I have a functioning ATM in my studio right now, and I need half his expertise.
Also, Joseph Beuys. I’ve had dreams about his performance I Like America and America Likes Me. He had interesting humanistic ideas that I think are missing in today’s art world. I have an idea that we should chop trees and split rocks between the tree line in the Front Range of the Colorado mountains.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
I’ve been reading On Longing (Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection), by Susan Stewart. Her critical aspects in the book touch base on mundane traditions in our culture, something of an interest in my own artwork. I’m currently on the chapter “Objects of Desire, Part I. Separation and Restoration,” where she draws ties to family photo albums and the need for such objects for preserving nostalgic memories.
Here’s a little slurp:
As in an album of photographs or a collection of antiquarian relics, the past is constructed from a set of presently existing pieces. There is no continuous identity between these objects and their referents. Only the act of memory constitutes their resemblance. And it is in this gap between resemblance and identity that nostalgic desire arises. The nostalgic is enamored of distance, not of the referent itself. Nostalgia cannot be sustained without loss. For the nostalgic to reach his or her goal of closing the gap between resemblance and identity, lived experience would have to take place, an erasure of the gap between sign and signified, an experience which would cancel out the desire that is nostalgia’s reason for existence.
Did your head explode?
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
People putting their chicken-scratch signature on the front of their work.
What's your day job?
I’ve been all over — from refurbishing interior housing, designing shirts for a foundation that promotes higher education in Ghana, dog-sitting via Rover.com, and Lyfting. But I’ve been consistently working for WishGarden, a natural botanical-remedies company. They promote alternatives for over-the-counter commercial medicines and are a go-to for maternal practices in midwifery. In the past it’s been seen as alternative, but I appreciate how these remedies are starting to gain popularity in more modern and urban areas.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
Buy an airplane, travel the country at my leisure with my dog Cameo and bring anyone who would want to go on some adventures. But I’d probably become a philanthropist.
I recently listened to a Malcolm Gladwell podcast on the aspects of university endowments and how supporting public and local universities creates outstanding developments in those under-resourced weak-link areas. Rowan University in New Jersey, an engineering school, is an example of such a success story. Side note: Patti Smith is a notable alumni.
But I think I would fund universities in local or rural areas that are looking for improvements to create experimental programs in the liberal arts or in the creative realm. What would the next Black Mountain College look like?
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
Love it, leave it, and then come back to it again. Growing up in Boulder, it was difficult for me to see why individuals were drawn to living in Colorado. I did a lot of traveling to Mexico with close and very extensive family down there. We would go to multiple cities and beaches near the state of Guanajuato for whole summers until I had to go back to school. On the plane back, I would feel tremendously sad and at times cry because I felt that area was more like home. I’m starting to feel that way toward Colorado, and traveling tends to remind me of that feeling.
I’ve lived in Colorado for 28 years, and I see myself continuing to explore and move around in the States, trying to find a place that speaks to me. I would love to find new locations around the world, or in the States, where I could stay for short periods of time — maybe four- to six-month increments.
As an artist, a lot of my ideas come from juxtaposing the familiar with the unfamiliar and making connections on social trends and views. In the last two years — in no particular order — I road-tripped down to Leon Guanajuato in Mexico, San Antonio, Kansas City, Philadelphia (twice), Dewey Beach (Orange Crushes!), Shenandoah Woods, D.C., Istanbul, Amsterdam and New York, many of these locations for the first time. I have to give a shout-out to my partner-in-crime Stephanie Kantor, who had a lot of influence for those trips.
What's the one thing Denver could do to help the arts?
Create rent-control regions in the Denver metro area that would help sustain culture-makers who want to stay here. I’m all for a new demographic of people wanting to move to an up-and-coming city, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of pushing individuals aside who have worked so hard to help maintain and create an interesting level of merit.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I don’t like picking favorites, but I will say I look up to Richard Saxton and the M12 Collective. They are doing culturally relevant things that push for using common knowledge as an important aspect in the art-making process in rural and uncommon locations.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I currently have a solo show at Dateline Gallery. The work presents over 500 torn photographs dating from the 1930s to the late 1960s, from various locations in the states and foreign countries like Turkey.
After that, my residency at RedLine will come to an end — and I’ll be looking for a new studio. TBD!
In November, I’ll be presenting my first curated show, titled Accessory (A Gun Fad) at RedLine. The show presents a group of local and regional artists who have been reflecting on the aspects of gun violence, Black Lives Matter and traditions in today’s American gun culture. And I’m really looking forward toward the annual RedLine Residents art show in January 2017. I can’t wait to see what the curator, Daisy McGowan, has in mind for us.
I’ve also stepped in with planning for the 2017 Month of Photography, with Mark Sink and the rest of the pack. Exciting things to come!
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
I’ve seen and met a lot of individuals who get the attention they deserve, and it’s been great to see that happening. Jeromie Dorrance and Dateline Gallery, in my opinion, have really helped make it happen for those artists; I’m glad I’m able to have the opportunity to show there this year.
There are probably more artists in the local community still hiding from my radar, but I hope that John Defeo, Stephanie Kantor and Julio Alejandro all get some attention. Denver is totally missing out on the dialogue that their practices bring.
See work by George Perez in the solo show Typical Anything at Dateline Gallery, through September 3. Learn more about Perez online.