Art Bites Back: The Subversive Wit of Romulo Sans

Artist Statement and Biography for Romulo Sans

Juxtaposing religious, cultural and commercial iconography with sexualized images of the female form, Romulo Sans uses his piercing guerilla lens to expose the icons of power that shape today’s world. Citing Béla Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies as a seminal influence on his artistic vision, Sans reflects with mordant wit on the totalitarian underpinnings of contemporary existence.

The humor and irreverence in Sans’ work is underpinned by a deeper statement on a sickness that he sees in human culture, to which Sans first became exposed during his formative career in fashion. Through the language of iconography, Sans exposes the political exploitation of humanity in commercial and religious annals of power: seen as trading off the manipulation of social codes and values, amassing power and money at the expense of the human condition, and steeped in deepening violence and oppression. Executed with a clean eye, Sans’ wit is biting in its delivery, and fearlessly daring in its critique.

Barcelona-born, Romulo Sans’ diverse training took him from his home in Spain to the United States. Sans originally studied contemporary music and jazz at the Aula de Música Moderna in Barcelona. Highly influenced by his grandfather, surrealist painter Juame Sans, he turned to the plastic arts under his then-mentor Isiah Zagar, spending his late teens building painstakingly detailed mosaics on the streets of Philadelphia, before studying graphic design at City College in San Francisco and finally, History of Fashion at FIT in New York, which he made his home for eight years as he ascended the global high fashion ranks.

In 1993, Sans opened SANS NY, an accessory boutique in Soho, and launched Sansmedia, an advertising agency for young labels on the rise in New York’s fashion scene. Sans attained international notoriety collaborating as a stylist and art director for high end publications like Details, Vogue Man, and Vogue France, whose art director Donald Schaider said of him:

“Sans is a very rare and lethal combination of extraordinary artist with the camera and hot blooded adventurer with a ferocious appetite for life and beauty.”

– Donald Schaider

His collaborations with photographers including David Bailey, Mathias Vriens, and Alberto Figueroa have been widely published, in GEO Magazine, GQ, Colors Magazine, CNBC Business Magazine, Havana Journal, BBC, The New York Times, Bouygues, and Bettiment Magazine, among others. Despite his success, Sans’ immersion in this industry motivated his de-attachment from fashion and return to art.

Relocating to Havana, Cuba, Sans spent ten years refining his aesthetic, merging his fashion-trained eye with his evolving commitment to cultural critique through artistic expression. During this time, Sans launched his controversial publication The H Magazine, Cuba’s first lifestyle magazine about Havana, a city that constantly outwits and reinterprets the limits placed on it by political authorities. Sans’ daring attempt to capture Havana’s cultural subtexts came under fierce attack from Cuban authorities, resulting in Sans fleeing Cuba in 2009. Sans currently maintains his ties with Cuba from a distance, serving as Professor of Art Direction at the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Television de San Antonio.

Now living in New York , Sans burst onto the international art scene with his solo shows “Collapse” in 2011 at Galeria Hartman, Barcelona, and “Crushed” in 2013 at WhiteBox, New York, followed by Art Busan, South Korea and Art Basel, Hong Kong in 2014. To date, Sans has amassed collectors from around the globe, including the United Kingdom, China, Haiti, and Iran. Sans is currently working on his next solo show, which explores developing his use of iconography into a narrative on racial codes in ethnographic urban landscapes.

Sans’ work is perhaps best summed up by legendary photographer David Bailey:

“I really like what you are doing here. It’s very simple and fucking strong. Nobody does things like this anymore.”

David Bailey