A River Runs Through Javier Peres

Published December 22, 2011

As a gallerist in Berlin and Los Angeles, Javier Perés assembled and nurtured a roster of hard-partying art stars. He has offered a perfect platform for seminal work by Terence Koh, Joe Bradley, Dan Colen, Dash Snow, Agathe Snow, Kirstine Roepstorff, among others. And all along, the Havana-born former entertainment lawyer’s own creativity was unmistakably the gallery’s guiding spirit—his vision quite possibly defines the early 2000’s art world.

Recently, Perés began to produce his own art. His first foray into art-making was the gritty and sexy self-published zine/artist book called DADDY. From that project’s raw use of collage, Perés emerges with new paintings, a never-ending series of heart-breakingly beautiful photorealist portraits of River Phoenix. Two distinct series from his River portraits opens at Berlin’s Grimmuseum Jan. 12.

Perés repeatedly portrays Phoenix at apex of his fame shortly before his tragic fatal overdose. The renderings are arrestingly skillful and emotionally touching; Peres’ tenderness toward his subject is obvious. “I fixated on it because he was beautiful but it was never really about his face, for me.” says Peres. “He was a powerful, serene figure. He was very Buddha-like. He was very centered.” In Peres’s portrayal, Phoenix is less of a celebrity than a person with evident integrity. “I did think he was an angel,” Peres explains. “I thought he was larger than life. But, at the same time, he was one of us.” 

ABOVE: Javier Perés, Rio (Gray), 2011. Courtesy the artist.