CHRIS LOPEZ - urban saints
URBAN SAINTS is a series of large-scale portraits juxtaposing doctrinal Renaissance painting techniques with modern masculinity. The artist, Chris Lopez, is well known for his portrayal of the attitudes and distinctive personalities of his subjects in the details of his otherwise burly and raw nude paintings. His work is masculine to the core, but in a way that represents man in totality: rugged, brawny, sensory, and sensual.
Lopez says that this series is a play on the word “saint”, combining the painting styles of the Apostles and other religious masterpieces with modern subjects, adorning large tattoos that showcase their personalities. His paintings do not just represent each man, but reveal their personal memoirs; the hardships they have faced, their private suffering, and the stories they carry with them. There is an instinctual response to each painting; a relation made between the work and the viewer’s own experiences that creates an intimate, empathic connection. Viewers are enticed by the paintings to explore the personalities of each subject, from their most masculine features to their clandestine sensitivities.
To Lopez, the men in his paintings represent saints in a secular way. He offers that “people don't need to be religious to be a saint to someone”, and reflects on stories of perseverance, passion, moving to a new country for a better life, and dealing with loss. He argues that the hardships his subjects have faced have made them better men, saint-like in his perspective, which is why he has chosen to portray them in this virtuous manner. An intentional choice to use acrylic paint on oriented strand boards blends texture into the portrait, giving the subject another expression in a realistic language. Lopez considers the panels an essential part of the painting process as they become the gestures that create and actualize his subjects.
The series is not just about the emotional and multifaceted nature of the men Lopez portrays. URBAN SAINTS is an homage to the sanctity within all of us.
Originally from Barcelona, Spain, Chris López became interested in painting as a child and furthered his artistic education at Barcelona’s Pau Gargallo University, where he focused on graphic design, artistic illustration, and painting, while consecutively studying photography and set design for television and stage. Lopez is known for his intimate portrayals of the male form through oil painting, watercolor, photography, charcoal drawing, printmaking, and digital art.
Lopez tends to showcase portraits of men, painted with masterly technique. The artist recalls that he has gravitated toward the human form since his art school days, although he used to paint only women. The desire to surprise an ex-boyfriend one day led to López painting a small male nude watercolor for the first time. He notes that he enjoyed the experience so much that twenty years have passed and he is still captivated by the practice of depicting male beauty.
“I chose these men because in one way or another they show something interesting about being sexy and masculine, without any sexual reference,” he says of the subjects, “I find beauty in a rough masculine face and a classically proportioned body. These paintings are examples of my personal concept of beauty.”
López’s portraits seem to glow with life. There is strength and stoicism in his subjects, but an open, intimate quality as well that invites viewers to imagine the personalities behind the confident faces and sculpted muscles. Sometimes López works in oil, sometimes in acrylic with accents of gold leaf. Backdrops are minimal, unobtrusive, allowing the subjects the full focus of the viewer’s gaze.
In López’s own words, “You might want to know more about each subject—and fall in love with him.”
Chris Lopez currently lives and works in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.