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July 25 2014

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Vibrant Viramontes

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Few people captured the zeitgeist of the 1980s fashion and club scene as expressively as fashion illustrator Tony Viramontes. His work explodes off the pages of an extensive new monograph, Bold, Beautiful and Damned – the World of 1980s Fashion Illustrator Tony Viramontes, which, authored by Dean Rhys Morgan, will be released by Laurence King Publishing on October 7. Viramontes—who was educated in fashion illustration under Steven Meisel at Parsons, was mentored by Antonio Lopez, and made his debut in The New York Times in 1979—had a firm grasp on the eighties fascination with the androgynous, transgressive, and performative. He drew male and female models with wide shoulders, large mouths, marked eyebrows, and empowered stances in a constant state of vivid expression. The artist worked for and with everyone from The Face, Vogue, Yves Saint Laurent (above, top right), Valentino (above, top left), Chanel, Claude Montana, and Jean Paul Gaultier, who wrote the forward to Rhys Morgan’s tome. Viramontes’ models included the likes of Naomi Campbell (above, bottom left), Isabella Rossellini, Rene Russo, and Janice Dickinson (below), and he even did the album covers for Arcadia’s So Red the Rose and Janet Jackson’s breakout Control (above, bottom right). Sadly, though, Viramontes’ work was largely forgotten after his passing in 1988.

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But when Rhys Morgan discovered the artist’s archive, which was stacked in boxes in Viramontes’ brother’s garage in Los Angeles, he was so taken by the richness of the illustrations that he decided to do a book. “I opened the boxes one by one and found the most incredible material,” Rhys Morgan told Style.com. “Viramontes was a very prolific artist—for each picture there were ten to twelve versions. I found an original Chanel drawing from Karl Lagerfeld’s first haute couture collection that had been my personal favorite since I had been to university and saw it in a magazine,” he added. Rhys Morgan’s celebration of Viramontes has contributed to a renewed interest in the illustrator’s work—Bergdorf Goodman featured his drawings in a window installation during New York fashion week, and in Milan, 10 Corso Como is exhibiting his work in Galleria Carla Sozzani through November 3. It would seem that the tastemakers agree: Viramontes is a talent who deserves to be remembered.

Photos: Tony Viramontes, courtesy of Laurence King Publishing

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Dept. of Culture