Rómulo Sans’ sharply executed, politically subversive, culturally transgressive art reflects an eclectic, transnational life spent traversing the spheres of art, commerce, and culture in Barcelona, New York, and a ten-year stint in Havana.Often juxtaposing religious, cultural and commercial iconography with sexualized images of the female form, Sans turns his piercing guerilla lens toward cultural critique, exposing with dark, stylish wit, a sarcastic, dystopian vision of the icons of power that shape today’s global world.The humor and irreverence of 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, and explored more deeply for himself through a life changing performance “Hasidic for a Week” (2011) in which he lived for a week as a Hasidic Jew in Israel, traversing secluded Jewish settlements and experiencing the ritualistic practices of this culture. Through the language of iconography, Sans exposes the dark, political exploitation of humanity he sees so rife in the commercial and religious annals of power in contemporary life: an exploitation that trades off the manipulation of social codes to shape human beliefs insofar as they facilitate the amassing of power and money, at the expense of the human condition itself, ever steeped in deeper violence and oppression. Citing Béla Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies as a seminal influence on his artistic life, one can see how, like Tarr, Sans reflects with mordant wit on the totalitarian underpinnings of contemporary existence.
Executed with a sharp, clean eye, Sans’ wit is biting and humorous 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, edgy 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.” 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 clean, fashion-trained eye with his bourgeoning commitment to cultural critique through artistic expression. Sans launched during this time, his controversial publication The H Magazine, Cuba’s first lifestyle magazine about the real Havana, a city that constantly outwits and reinterprets the limits placed on it by political authorities. James Brown, founder and editor of GQ Magazine has said of Sans’ The H Magazine that it “is probably the best and most stylish city guide in the world.” Sans’ daring attempt to capture Havana’s true zeitgeist 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 Artshow 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. In addition to guest lecturing at the Pratt Institute, New York, 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.”
written by ERUM NAQVI