Perlis was born in the Bronx, NY. He is a lifetime New Yorker, who completed his education in New York City and continues to reside there. His first showing was at the Whitney Museum in 1970. It was covered by an article in Art News, ‘How to be an Old Master at 28.’ This led to a major exhibition at Graham Gallery in New York. It was the first of over 20 solo exhibitions, including a major retrospective at the Lancaster Museum of Art in Pennsylvania in 2011, and a large show at the National Academy of Design Museum at Fifth Avenue in New York City in 2018.
He has been a figurative and representational painter since he began his career as an artist. He takes his subjects from his surroundings and works from models and imagination rather than photography. His work includes narrative paintings based on literature, mythology, theatre, and opera. He also paints portraits and urban and rural landscape paintings from many cities and countries. The streets of New York have been a constant source of inspiration for him. He has also made works based on the civil unrest in the US, that have been widely exhibited. His work has been written about in major publications such as the New York Times, Art News and many others. A recent painting of the George Floyd murder was featured on a billboard in Times Square with a humanitarian message; the billboard subsequently traveled to five other American cities and was extensively covered in the media.