Times Square is probably the least likely place to find a New Yorker on any given night (unless you’ve finally snapped up tickets to Hamilton). But oddly, the tourist-heavy epicenter has become a world-class venue to view contemporary art, for both the tourist that clog the streets and local art lovers. Each night, Times Square Arts takes over a smattering of the advertising screens that keep Times Square looking like day time, replacing ads with video art- for just three minutes. Called Midnight Moment, the program picks one top-tier artist a month to surprise Times Square visitors with an immersive art experience that stretches across the plaza and climbs the buildings facing the square- from 11:57pm to midnight.
November’s Midnight Moment artist comes to Times Square Arts via the Cuban Artists Fund, with painter Emilio Perez. Perez is a New York based painter, but his work became known in Cuba during the Havana Biennial in 2015, when he painted a sprawling outdoor installation that became the country’s largest outdoor mural.
I think Times Square is a fantastic venue for contemporary art. It is incredibly democratic and accessible to people that might otherwise not go to a museum or art gallery because they don’t feel they know enough about art to feel comfortable going. Instead it is delivered to them in a very unsuspecting way that I think can educate and make them want to learn more. From the perspective of the artist is also gives you access to an audience that comes from every corner of the world so it challenges you to think about what you are putting out there and why.
Perez is most known for his colorful abstract paintings that capture a frantic movement and dimensionality, made with an intensive layer process that ends with the artist stripping away layers of paint with an Xacto knife. The swirls of color and line are what Perez calls a “conversation between drawing and painting,” which form art works that feel as if they have a constant movement and flow. For his first animation piece for Times Square Arts, Perez decided to have visitors delve into the layers of one of his pieces, translating the stretching and curving lines into channels and highways that the visitor may follow. Called “Dream Season”, the piece begins with gestural forms that evoke the strokes of Roy Lichtenstein, then slowly layer upon layer drift over the screen, activating different picture planes in a dizzying array of color that splices in every direction.
Unlike the majority of the advertising you see in Times Square this animation has a vertical movement that not only captures the attention but also gives the impression of being on an elevator ride that transports you out of the chaos of Times Square if only for a few minutes
Perez’s personal style is not the wild artist look that may be assumed by his paintings. He favors a classic look with a contemporary twist, with subtle hints that parallel his art work -pops of color are layered in his pieces that peek out from the neck of a shirt or in a pair of carefully chosen socks. He seeks out crisp staples from Rag & Bone, Tom Ford, John Varvatos, Belstaff and 7 For All Man Kind jeans, paired with a pair of Vans- for both working in the studio and schmoozing at art events. Comfort and quality are his go-tos for dressing in a way that reflects his lifestyle and personality, with the peeling of paint layers in his artwork echoed only in his layering of garments.
Along with Dream Season, which plays each night in November from 11:57 to midnight, Perez released a limited edition print, available through Pace Prints. The screen print captures one of the vivacious moments of the Times Square animation, resembling a boldly colored film still that captures the kinetic energy of the film.
Jacket by Boglioli, cashmere henley by Bonobos, cotton pants by Outerknown. V-neck sweater, cotton button-down shirt and cotton pants all by Tomas Maier. Cashmere crewneck sweater by Outerknown. Special thanks to Spring Place. Styled by Wendell Brown.