Working across the categories of portraiture, still life, and landscape, Elle Pérez’s photographs
capture moments of intimacy, emotional exchange, and becoming. Deeply personal, Pérez’s
works are poetic and visceral depictions, often showing their subjects in tender and vulnerable
moments: a portrait of a person wearing a scarf around their head looking into the camera with
bruised, puffy eyes; a close-up of a post-surgery knee with a long scar running across it; a
bather’s legs dripping with water; but also close-up images of rocks and leaves that appear
equally intimate. In their works, Pérez reflects on gender identities and queerness through their
immediate social surroundings as well as (pop) cultural references.
Diablo (2018) is the most monumental work by Pérez to date and recreates their studio wall as
they were preparing their eponymous solo exhibition at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City,
Queens, in 2018. The work collages Pérez’s photographs of friends and family as well as
underground wrestlers along with archival magazine clippings and Xeroxed excerpts from books
such as Hal Fischer’s Gay Semiotics: A Photographic Study of Visual Coding Among
Homosexual Men (1977); Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse (1998), and
David Wojnarowicz’s Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration (1991). The result is a
window into Pérez’s practice and a unique archive of a specific moment. The work’s title,
Diablo, pays homage to the seminal 1980s queer zine Straight to Hell as well as the colloquial
use of “diablo” in Puerto Rican Spanish to describe a good-looking man. This kaleidoscope of
images and references creates an intimate and critical reflection on gender, desire, and time.
Elle Pérez (b. 1989, New York) has held solo exhibitions at the Carnegie Museum of Art,
Pittsburgh (2021); 47 Canal, New York (2018); and MoMA PS1, Queens, New York (2018).
Their work was presented at the 2019 Whitney Biennial, and has been featured in several group
exhibitions, including at the Brooklyn Museum (2019), and David Zwirner, New York (2018),
among others. Pérez lives and works in New York.