by Jonathan Ned Katz
A series of visual art works by self-taught artist Anthony Gonzales imaginatively depict erotic life as he fantasizes it happening in the New York City subway, among an ethnically and racially diverse population of men and women, gay and straight, in-between, and transgender.
These works were first created in 2008 for an exhibit at the city’s gay and lesbian center, a show that coincided with the publication of a book of Gonzales art work, Bronx Boys (Berlin: Bruno Gmünder, 2008), compiled by Harvey Redding.
Though it may not be immediately apparent in 2009, the clothes, haircuts, attitudes, and behaviors that Gonzales fantasizes in his subway sex scenes set his vibrant, funny, fantasy images firmly within a particular historical locale, New York City in the first decade of the 21st Century. In twenty years, say, these images will look historical—they'll then depict a fantasy set in a particular, time-bound, far away land.
As related in Bronx Boys, Gonzales was born in 1964, in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, in the southern Caribbean, into “an economically-strapped, single-parent household,” the second of four siblings (two brothers and a sister). Paper, pens, and pencils were “almost prohibitively expensive, but were loving supplied to him by his mother who was aware of her son’s amazing talent from an early age. Gonzales began drawing as a child by copying images of his favorite comic book hero, Conan the Barbarian.”
But young Gonzales began adding his own creative touches to his copies. Working at night while his mother and siblings slept, he would draw his superhero with extra “mounds of muscle and a battle-axe-sized hard-on.” After finishing that night’s drawing, “he would then carefully shred his masterpiece into tiny secret bits that were cleverly camouflaged amongst the rest of the trash.”
In Trinidad, Gonzales worked in a sign shop creating art for tee shirts, screen prints, hand painted signs, and billboards.
In 1985, in Trinidad, Gonzales fathered a child, and Bronx Boys is dedicated to Gonzales’ “mom and son who are always there for me.” In 2009, Gonzales is a grandfather.
After immigrating to New York City in 1990, and becoming a U.S. citizen in 1998, Gonzales in 2005 joined the Saturday figure drawing sessions at the gay center on 13th Street, and the gay men’s erotic drawing workshop produced by the Leslie Lohman Gay Art Foundation. The artist had never drawn from a nude male model until he was living in the U.S. His Subway Sex Idols series is created with colored pencils on paper, and bits of collage.
In addition to Bronx Boys, samples of Gonzales' art work are also included in the publications Dirty Little Drawings (2006), Stripped Uncensored (2009), and The World’s Greatest Erotic Art of Today, Volume 3 (2009).
Gonzales’ art was first influenced by his favorite artists, the Czech Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha, the Russian-born French artist known as Erté, the Costa Rican Guillermo Vargas, and the American fantasy and science fiction artist Frank Frazetta. Other early influences were the creators of gay erotic art: Ira C. Smith; Rex; The Hun; Robert W. Richards; Etienne; and Tom of Finland. In the perspective of art history, Gonzales’ raunchy, satirical, imaginary city scenes are in the tradition of Paul Cadmus, George Grosz, and William Hogarth.
Gonzales collects comic books, reads mystery and crime novels, and watches classic 1930s movies, film noir, sci-fi, horror, blaxploitation, animation, and pre-condom porn.
Gonzales's last name indicates Hispanic/Latino heritage, and he says: "I am a mix of Spanish and West Indian but am considered West Indian. Unfortunately, I do not speak or understand Spanish." The publication of Gonzales' work is offered on OutHistory.org as a contribution to the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month 2009, as well as GLBT History Month October 2009.
In 2009, I am honored to present the work of this immensely talented artist, emerging publicly at age 45, for what already promises to be a great artistic career.