Tony Viramontes and Mike Hill
Tony Viramontes or Viramontez , was born in 1956 in Los Angeles, to parents of Mexican decent. He traveled extensively as a child. He studied fine art and photography in New York, before switching to fashion and beauty illustration. This interest led him inevitably to Europe. He lived in Venice and Paris.
He worked for magazines and fashion houses in Italy, France and Japan. He listed among his influences Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, Degas, Matisse, Egon Schiele, Picasso, Fellini and Tom of Finland.
When Viramontes made his debut in the late 1970's, his hard and direct style was a marked contrast to the prevailing soft pastel school of fashion illustration. He scored an immediate success, rapidly acquiring the kind of prestigious editorial commissions too often allocated to photographers, from Lei ,Per Lui in Italy, Vogue in the USA, the Face in Britain, as well as Jill Magazine , Marie Claire Le Monde and City Magazine in France.
Viramontes also worked with some of the most renowned names in fashion including Yves St. Laurent, Valentino, Versace, Chanel, Perry Ellis, Claude Montana and Rochas cosmetics.
His striking images are of strong, dominant, aggressive yet feminine women, sensuous men, smouldering and smokey-eyed, who vibrate with New Wave energy. He did not like to be labeled an illustrator, and considered himself to be an artistic creator, a creator of ideas in images. Goldy - the latest Italian version of Fiorucci - and Hanae Mori, the Japanese couturiere, asked him to take on the artistic direction of their companies, from the decoration of their boutiques to the design of their collections.
Tony Viramontes belonged to a new generation of artists who knew how to capitalize on their talent. He explored and mastered several techniques and styles, from drawing - direct and hard, supple and coloured - to video and painting with felt tip market pens over photographs. "I look for new ideas because I like to be in a state of creative anxiety and insecurity." Said the artist. "If I feel sure of myself I cannot be creative, I try to renew myself."
Viramontes' elegant art is fused with humour and fantasy, he found his inspiration everywhere, in the street, in music and dance. "It is extremes and contrasts that inspire me - an enormous lady in the street leading a tiny dog on a leash, for example. It is essential to capture the image, not a detail, not a garment or an expression, but an impression. Of the hundreds of sketches I might make for one drawing, it is almost always the first drawing which states the essential."
In 1984, an exhibition of his work was held in Paris. He had been experimenting with photo-illustration, drawing over photographs and he planned to direct films.
Tony Viramontes had great artistic potential, but he died in 1988 at the age of thirty one.