Stillz on The Movement of Surrealism and Pop Culture
Matías Vásquez, better known as Stillz, is a Colombian-American photographer and film director. Raised in Miami, he was only 17 years old when he started working as a self-taught freelance photographer under the name We Own The City, which is now the name of a production company he founded.
His career began when he was working as a music photographer in New York, where he met Puerto Rican singer Bad Bunny through another photographer. Once he met Bad Bunny, he started experimenting more with his film art and photography by defining the singer’s visual identity in a manner that set a new aesthetic for the Latin American music genres of reggaetón and trap.
Currently, Stillz is in his twenties and no one really knows much more about him because he likes to keep himself anonymous in a sort of Banksy manner. He prefers his work to speak for him and stand out on social media.
Over the past years working with Bad Bunny, he’s developed an artistic film style that’s heavily influenced by Spanish painter Salvador Dalí’s surrealism style. His videos are always reminiscent of Dalí’s landscapes but with his own touch as a creative director.
Andy Warhol’s Polaroids 1958-1987 book and Stillz’s One book
As a photographer, his main influence of pop culture is from Andy Warhol. Stillz recently published a photo book titled One with the Spanish publishing house Progresso. The book presents a series of Polaroids that Stillz took of some of the most prolific artists and pop culture figures in the U.S.
For these portraits, he used a Polaroid Big Shot camera from the ‘70s just like Warhol did for his book Polaroids 1958-1987. According to Progresso, Stillz wants “to create a kind of personal mark at a specific point in time for the music culture.”
In the Polaroids above you can see that the photographic style is the same. The intention behind portraits of influential artists is the same. The only differences are the cultural context and times these photographs were taken. Yet, the simple fact that the same camera was used by both artists makes a huge difference because the Polaroid Big Shot was intended to take portraits of a striking quality.
Now, in regards to the surrealism in Stillz’s creative films, that’s another story.
You have to compare Stillz’s shots to Dalí’s paintings to identify the very strong similarities. Bad Bunny’s video for “La Noche de Anoche” featuring Spanish singer Rosalía is the best example of Dalí’s influence.
Dalí’s Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s Angelus and Stillz’s Shot of Bad Bunny and Rosalía
Dalí’s 1934 painting titled Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s Angelus is an oil on wood panel. In this piece, Dalí references Jean François Millet’s Angelus painting. Dalí did his own interpretation of it by placing the female figure taller than the male figure to portray the female partner as dominant—a representation of women posing a sexual threat to men.
In Stillz’s shot, you can see that just like Dalí, he placed a couple in the center. Rosalía is to the left and she’s slightly shorter than Bad Bunny. In the painting and Stillz’s shot, the couple’s body language is very expressive. In Dalí’s piece, the couple evokes the essence of a submissive woman to the man. In Stillz’s work, the couple evokes a sense of equality between the man and woman. Yet, how Bad Bunny holds Rosalía can indicate certain power over her, giving the slight undertone of subservience that can be seen similarly in Dalí’s.
Both Dalí and Stillz use very similar backgrounds but with different color palettes. The painting and the shot look like they’re both set in the desert surrounded by clouds and mountains. Yet, Dalí uses different hues of blues, yellows, browns, and whites, while Stillz uses various hues of pinks, oranges, yellows, and browns.
Dalí’s Untitled (Dream of Venus) Formerly Known as Visions of Eternity and Stillz’s Shot of Bad Bunny Next to the Arch
Dalí’s Untitled (Dream of Venus) Formerly Known as Visions of Eternity is an oil on canvas painting from 1939. It’s a dream-like landscape that was painted during the Spanish Civil War and depicts an overall sad and overwhelming scenery. It’s a very simple painting with very few elements, yet it conveys a very strong feeling of sorrow.
This painting and Stillz’s shot of Bad Bunny under the arch are quite similar. Both artists include human figures under the arch. Dalí paints a skeleton-like character that’s seen from a distance and Stillz places Bad Bunny under the arch.
Composition-wise, both the painting and the shot divide the pieces into two with straight lines. Dalí divided his vertical painting with a line that separates the land and sky, which emulates a horizon. Stillz divides his horizontal shot with the straight left side of the arch.
The other very striking similarity that stands out between both pieces is the “human” figure to the left in Dalí’s painting and the tree to the left in Stillz’s shot. Both are the same color. They’re placed in different quadrants and have different sizes, but both have some weird objects almost floating above them. Dalí’s human-like figure has white and grey bean-like shapes on its shoulder while Stillz’s tree has white cotton-like fluffs attached to it.
The last similarity you’ll find is the color palettes. Both play with various tones of blues and whites but differ from each other in the use of black and white. Dalí uses black in the arch, floor, and figure, which evokes sadness. For the arch, Stillz uses yellow, which is often associated with feelings of happiness and lightness.
Stillz manages to use his stills in a creative manner that establishes a new visual Latin American identity through his very strong references to Dalí’s Surrealism and Warhol’s portraits of pop culture figures. If you’re curious about Stillz's artwork follow him on Instagram at @stillz.
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