Nando Alvarez-Perez is a Buffalo native that happened to find his way to San Francisco for graduate school, and that’s where we first met. We didn’t have any classes together, but shared a social circle within the factory of MFA candidates. His animated and cheerful demeanor made him popular among the ladies, but it was his inquisitive mind that led him to explore the history of art making, and contemporary role of photography, while pushing the limits of materials, and the viewer’s perception of a photograph. While in school, I was always interested in seeing what he was up to, and at our thesis exhibition, I remember thinking, “He’s onto something,” and by golly I was right.
Nando received a 2016 solo show at CEPA Gallery from last year’s member show, where he and Frank O’Connor were both chosen from the juried process. Nando’s current exhibit, Totems For A Flattened Now, is on view through March 5.
Unfortunately, I was not able to sit down with him-the install of course took longer than expected, but he took some time, via the internet after he returned to the Bay Area for work, to answer a few questions for me.
So you were born in Buffalo. Did you leave the area right after high school? For college? Why? Why not study locally?
I left Buffalo after I graduated high school in 2006 to go to college in New York City for all the usual reasons. Buffalo is a wonderful city, but it is small and I was looking for a place with wider horizons, although I wasn’t really sure what I was pursuing at the time.
Did you move back after college? Why/Why not?
By the end of college, I was fairly certain that I wanted to be working in art, but I hadn’t quite figured out the details yet. Staying in New York City seemed the best way to explore potential options.
When did you move to SF? How long have you lived there?
I moved to SF in 2012 to do my MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute; I crossed the Bay to Oakland in 2013 and I’ve been based there ever since.
What are you currently doing for work? Does your earned income allow you to be an artist? What is your dream job?
I work at a company called Airbnb, on their photography operations team. I’m incredibly lucky to have a day job that allows me both the time and income to make the work I want to make. I also have an amazing team of coworkers who make spending 40 hours a week in a corporate office about as enjoyable as it possibly can be. Obviously my dream job would be to focus my energies on my art making full time, but right now I have to remain realistic about the associated costs of that.
What does SF have that Buffalo doesn’t? Would you ever move back to Buffalo?
Well, it has palm trees, Berkeley, and almost permanent sunshine to start. It also has a precipitously high cost of living, no apparent collector base for emerging artists, and a burgeoning population of people whose idea of a bright future extends no further than the grim realities of the “sharing” economy. I have considered moving back to Buffalo many times, but right now I’m much more concerned with focusing on my work, and I think it’s important to be building a wider network and audience that a big urban center allows for.
How often do you visit Buffalo? Do you notice changes, and if so what strikes you?
Unfortunately, I’m only able to make it back to Buffalo one or two times a year right now. What’s been striking me lately has been the sheer number of new bars and restaurants that have opened over the last few years in town.
When visiting do you go see other art? If so, what? Do you ever see anything that intrigues you?
I never miss an opportunity to go to the Albright Knox, but I’m usually in Buffalo for such short trips–and over the holidays to boot–that doing all the rounds is usually pretty difficult. I’m pretty upset that I missed the Hollis Frampton show at CEPA last year that looked absolutely outstanding.
What are your thoughts about the local art scene in Buffalo?
The Buffalo art world might be much smaller than those in New York or Los Angeles, but clearly, with places like Hallwalls, CEPA, and the Albright Knox it’s no less edgy or sophisticated.
Your work is highly conceptual. What/who are your influences?
I’ve never considered my work particularly conceptual, because I’m essentially dealing with aesthetic objects and wanting people to encounter and respond to them, rather than dealing immediately in the realm of ideas. Many of the ideas suggested in my work–the performativity of materials, the recurring specter of modernism, a contemporary amnesia towards history–are arrived at through visual metaphors built on objects and their juxtaposition, specific readings are not insisted on. I’m much more concerned with affect than with reason.
My influences are always changing, but I’m very much into Magritte right now, the still lifes of Daguerre, and of course the unending stream of images that is Instagram. Most of what I think about comes from what I read though: sci-fi, history, philosophy, etc.
Your work combines 2/d and 3/d elements. How would you classify it?
I’m not super keen on medium specific classifications of work. Obviously, this work has photographic elements, sculptural elements, some conceptual elements that you might find in so-called “post-internet art,” and references to painting and the history of still life, but it also has elements of interior design, industrial fabrication, and, I hope, an element of sacred objecthood. The final objects sit at the center of all of these things, they are material manifestations of a network of interrelations.
Is selling your photography important to you as an artist?
For some reason artists are often expected to be thankful for the opportunity to show their work, thankful for the opportunity to make it, thankful for any attention it receives. They are not supposed to talk about how their labor, more often than not, results in the production of objects which are essentially luxury goods and that the sale of those luxury goods is absolutely necessary to their being able to continue production. Sales also act, unfortunately, as important forms of validation for artists and strong encouragement for them to continue their work. It makes a lot of artists uncomfortable to think about their hard work and passion being poured into the same neoliberal capitalist meat grinder that they have explicitly tried to avoid by working in the arts. But the world is what it is. So the answer is yes, it is absolutely important to me to sell my work.
I noticed there was no pricing listed on the info sheet. How do you want collectors to approach and collect your work and how would you sell it?
Interested collectors can reach out to CEPA Gallery to inquire as to pricing. The show has five pieces and they are available as unique sculptural objects, including wallpapers and frames. Each piece includes instructions for assembly. Individual photographs are printed in small editions and prices are available on request.
Images: Portrait of Nando and his work is taken by the author, and the install view is courtesy of the artist.
CEPA Gallery | 617 Main Street #201 | Buffalo, NY 14203 | (716) 856-2717