The Artistry of the Perez Brothers: Cruising in Style

Low and Slow, Mean and Clean

Interview by Gwynned Vitello // Portrait by Max Knight

When it comes to the vibrant world of Lowriders, it’s not just about candy apple red or acrid acid green cars adorned with slices of chrome, luxurious leather or velvet interiors

In fact, as Steve Velasquez of the Smithsonian Institute noted, “The car aspect was 10%, the social aspect was 90%.” It is within this tight-knit community that the Perez Brothers have made their mark as master storytellers through their art. Their humility and genuine passion for the culture have earned them recognition from Thinkspace Projects’ Andrew Hosner as artists who beautifully capture the essence of shared experiences and family ties. In a delightful twist, Alejandro and Vicente, identical twins, provide a unique perspective to their art. Let’s dive into their world of Lowriders and artistry!

A Fascination with Twins

The Perez Brothers naturally attract curiosity due to their identical twin status, often leading to questions about their art and the twin experience. Growing up, being twins felt completely natural to them. They never considered it odd or bizarre; to them, they were just two brothers who happened to be the same age and look alike. However, when they encountered other twins, it would always leave them in awe and wonder. With three younger siblings, including a sister and two brothers, the Perez brothers formed a tightly-knit family unit as they grew up together.

An Upbringing in South Gate

The Perez Brothers were born at St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood but later moved to South Gate after their parents divorced. South Gate became their home throughout their childhood and high school years. As twins, Alejandro and Vicente shared a profound bond, enjoying similar interests and even the same group of friends. In their early years, they would often spend time outdoors, engaging in activities like playing baseball, riding bikes, and roller skating. However, as they entered their teenage years, they became more introverted, spending valuable time indoors watching wrestling matches and movies.

A Love for Cars

Cars have always played a significant role in the Perez Brothers’ lives. Since a young age, they were captivated by their father’s dark green 1968 Chevy Impala, which was their earliest memory of a lowrider. Their appreciation for cars expanded beyond lowriders, encompassing all types of vehicles, including Hondas. The experience of attending lowrider car shows with their father exposed them to a world of vibrant colors, shiny chrome, wire wheels, custom interiors, and mesmerizing airbrushed murals. Witnessing hopping contests, where cars with hydraulics would showcase their remarkable bouncing abilities, only heightened their fascination with the lowrider culture.

First Experiences at Car Celebrations

Alejandro fondly recalls his first car celebration, although he can’t pinpoint the exact occasion. However, his memories transport him back to a lowrider car show event with his father when he was approximately four or five years old. The stunning array of bright colors, shiny chrome, wire wheels, intricate custom interiors, and airbrushed murals left a lasting impression. Vicente shares a similar sentiment, not recalling the specific event but vividly remembering his father taking him to car shows as well. The wire wheels, hydraulics, and monochrome murals, each carefully chosen to align with the car’s theme, sparked his imagination. Beyond the cars themselves, the music, food, and overall ambiance fostered a vibrant and unforgettable experience.

The Evolution of Lowrider Customizations

In their formative years, the Perez Brothers predominantly encountered ’60s Impalas, Bombs, and ’80s G-Bodys at car shows. The styles and customization options have remained relatively consistent throughout the years. However, they have noticed some new developments, such as the incorporation of engraved patterns in chrome, LED headlights, and vibrant LEDs in the undercarriages and engine bays. Lowrider owners continually innovate and push boundaries to create bold and striking show cars that defy expectations.

High School and Artistic Beginnings

The Perez Brothers recall their high school years with fondness, where they mainly enjoyed spending time with friends during lunch breaks and engaging in activities with each other after school. However, their high school did not have a prominent car scene. Surprisingly, their passion for art had not fully developed at the time. Alejandro expressed his affinity for drawing, particularly enjoying Pop Art and being inspired by artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Liechtenstein. It wasn’t until his senior year AP Art class that he began taking art more seriously. Similarly, Vicente discovered his passion for art early on, often filling his notebooks with drawings. A significant turning point was when they stumbled upon an art magazine called Lowrider Arte, featuring Chicano art, which heavily influenced their artistic direction.

Pursuing Art Education at Otis College of Art

The decision to pursue art school sparked curiosity among their family members, with their mother being the only unwavering support. While others questioned their choices, their mother wholeheartedly believed in their artistic abilities. Their art teacher, Ms. Tinajero, introduced them to Otis College of Art, demonstrating her belief in their talent. Despite reservations about the high cost, they applied to Otis College without visiting beforehand. Much to their surprise, both brothers were accepted with a full scholarship. This opportunity became a turning point in their artistic journey, prompting them to pursue a major in Fine Art at Otis College as a joint endeavor.

The Transition in Artistic Style

As they delved deeper into their art education at Otis College, the Perez Brothers experimented with various styles, initially influenced by abstract art taught by their professors. However, they simultaneously explored their own artistic visions outside of school, making their work more personal and realistic over time. Taking a painting class with Nathan Ota from a different department opened their eyes to the world of color and figurative painting. They developed their skills through practice and experimentation, gradually shifting away from abstract art and embracing realism and figurativism.

Exhibiting Together and First Art Shows

The Perez Brothers’ collaborative approach began during their time at Otis College, making them well-suited to exhibit as a team. Their first joint exhibition took place during their junior year, where they showcased a still-life painting. Each brother painted on their own wooden panel, which they combined to create a cohesive and visually striking composition. This experience laid the foundation for their future collaborative works.

Post-Graduation Journey

After graduating, the Perez Brothers faced the challenge of establishing themselves as full-time artists. They started by taking on commissions from friends, family, and acquaintances. Initially, their work revolved around painting sneakers, but an opportunity arose when one of their uncle’s friends commissioned a painting of his Mustang. This led the brothers to explore the realm of car paintings further. They gradually transitioned from working at home to securing a shared converted garage studio space with their close friend. This newfound workspace allowed them to focus on developing a body of work and seeking opportunities to exhibit in galleries.

The Artistic Dynamic of Identical Twins

Over the years, the Perez Brothers’ collaboration process has evolved. In the early stages, they would divide a painting vertically, with each brother focusing on one half. However, they soon realized that each had particular strengths and preferences when it came to painting specific elements. As a result, they adjusted their approach, assigning specific roles to each brother based on their individual expertise. Currently, they follow a rigorous schedule, waking up around 2:30 in the morning, working their day jobs, and dedicating their evenings to painting from around one or two until 6:00 pm. Their shared passion for art fuels their daily routine, leaving them with a mere four hours of sleep each night.

The Artistic Preferences of Each Brother

Alejandro finds joy in painting the intricate details of car clothes, chrome embellishments, and various accessories. However, he also admits to experiencing anxiety before starting a painting, fearing that he might forget essential techniques. This anxiety often results in Alejandro embracing different painting techniques for each new artwork, constantly exploring and pushing his artistic boundaries. Vicente, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoys depicting reflections on cars—a challenging feat given the technical skills required to achieve a realistic and compelling representation.

The Process of Creation

The Perez Brothers’ artistic process begins with attending car shows or cruising at night to photograph captivating scenes that catch their eye. They meticulously examine their photos, selecting those that resonate with them on a deep level. After meticulously erasing the background using Photoshop, they project the image onto the canvas and proceed with the painting process. Working on multiple paintings simultaneously, each brother focuses on an individual piece before eventually swapping, ensuring each artwork maintains a seamless, cohesive appearance. The timeline for completion varies depending on the size and complexity of the artwork, ranging from two months for larger pieces to a week or two for smaller ones.

Car Shows as a Source of Inspiration

Attending car shows offers the Perez Brothers a chance to immerse themselves in a vibrant atmosphere and capture an array of inspiration. While they may not initially have a specific theme in mind, the unique compositions, colors, and cars they encounter during these events often spark new ideas. The process of revisiting their photos after the show is complete leads to the emergence of various themes, which inform their artistic direction.

Inspiration from Various Sources

Music plays a significant role in shaping the Perez Brothers’ artwork, with many of their paintings inspired by song lyrics. In fact, they dedicated an entire solo exhibition, “More Bounce,” held at The Brand Library in 2020 in collaboration with Thinkspace Projects, to Zapp and Roger’s song “More Bounce to the Ounce.” Each painting in the exhibition featured lowrider hoppers, paying homage to the dynamic and lively nature of the lowrider culture. Beyond music, the brothers find inspiration in a wide range of sources, including movies, actors, wrestlers, and daily life experiences. The diversity of their inspirations ensures a rich and multifaceted body of work.

Lowrider Culture Beyond LA

While Lowrider Culture has deep roots in Los Angeles and the Southwest, its influence extends far beyond these regions. Japan and Brazil have seen a significant rise in popularity for lowriders, with enthusiasts passionately embracing the culture. Interestingly, the Perez Brothers haven’t had the opportunity to attend car shows outside the United States or witness Lowrider Culture’s global manifestations firsthand. Despite the desire to explore international car shows, travel has remained elusive due to their busy schedules and a hint of apprehension towards flying.

Dream Destinations for the Perez Brothers

Alejandro expresses a strong desire to visit Paris, France, primarily to pay homage to Jim Morrison’s grave. Vicente, while not particularly fond of traveling, acknowledges the allure of Japan, where he hopes to experience the unique Lowrider scene. Additionally, New York’s bustling art scene and renowned museums appeal to his artistic sensibilities.

Celebrating Identity and Culture through Art

The Perez Brothers’ artwork serves as a vibrant celebration of identity and culture, encapsulating the essence of Lowrider Culture. Their paintings aim to inspire, highlighting the importance of community and joyous moments shared with loved ones. While the brothers identify as introverts, often plagued by anxiety and overthinking, their shared artistic passion allows them to channel positivity and push boundaries. Their desire to contribute to and nurture the culture they cherish shines through their beautifully crafted artworks.

Join the Perez Brothers’ Journey at the Thinkspace Projects Exhibit

The Perez Brothers’ artwork continues to captivate audiences worldwide. Currently, they are showcasing their masterpieces as part of the LAX / NDSM exhibit, curated by Thinkspace Projects, at the STRAAT Museum in Amsterdam until July 30, 2023. Their captivating paintings offer a unique window into the Lowrider Culture and leave viewers with a profound appreciation for the vibrant community they represent.

Unique FAQs About the Perez Brothers

1. What are the Perez Brothers’ artistic influences?

The Perez Brothers draw inspiration from a diverse range of sources, including music, movies, wrestlers, and everyday life experiences. Their artistic influences encompass artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Liechtenstein, as well as the Chicano art featured in Lowrider Arte.

2. Do the Perez Brothers work on multiple paintings simultaneously?

Yes, the Perez Brothers typically work on two paintings at a time. Each brother focuses on an individual artwork and then swaps once they’ve completed their portion. This collaborative approach ensures that their paintings seamlessly merge together, creating a cohesive final piece.

3. How long does it take the Perez Brothers to complete a painting?

The timeline for completing a painting varies depending on its size and complexity. Larger pieces can take up to two months, while smaller ones may be completed within a week or two. The Perez Brothers dedicate meticulous attention to detail, ensuring each artwork’s quality and capturing the essence of the subject matter.

4. What inspires the theme and composition of the Perez Brothers’ paintings?

The Perez Brothers find inspiration in a variety of elements, including the atmosphere of car shows, the colors and compositions they encounter, and the overall vibe of the lowrider culture. Their artworks often explore themes that resonate with them, driven by their own personal experiences and the emotions evoked by certain songs or lyrics.

5. What message do the Perez Brothers intend to convey through their art?

With their art, the Perez Brothers aim to celebrate identity and culture. Their paintings capture the joy, camaraderie, and shared experiences found within the Lowrider community. By depicting moments of happiness and togetherness, they hope to inspire viewers and foster a deeper appreciation for the culture that ignites their own artistic passion.