5 Questions with the Queer Argentinian Behind Our Favorite Subversive Art
Congratulations, you’ve just discovered your new favorite subversive queer artist. He’s an Argentinian named Horacio Abdala, and he specializes in two types of illustrations, both of which use playful colors and slight counter-cultural edges to erotic effect.
The first type he calls HORNO (link NSFW), a combination of his first name and the word “porno.” HORNO takes an up-close view of key moments in gay sex: when nipples touch, when a hand grabs a bulge, when precum leaks out of a penis. These simple line drawings have what is almost a children’s book appeal, making sex seem like a form of play, while the hot and cool color combinations imitate the contrast of partners involved in the act.
The second format of his art is called SOFT HORNO, and they are drawings of bearded bears whose initial cuteness hide slightly edgy details like piercings, subtle tattoos and body glitter — discreet markings of the modern urban queer. In addition to those, some images are reimagined iconic moments of pop divas like Ariana Grande and Britney Spears, only with cuddly bears inserted instead.
Here is some of Horacio Abdala’s artwork from HORNO (NSFW):
We spoke with Horacio Abdala to learn more about his inspiration and work. The following interview hasn’t been edited as to retain Abdala’s voice.
Hornet: When did you start drawing pictures of gay men and gay sex? Do you feel like your art benefits the gay community?
Horacio Abdala: I have been drawing since I was a boy, but gay illustration — about two years ago. It all started from one day to the next, without many detours. I said, “I want to draw gay eroticism,” and I started to put some close-ups, because I wanted to focus on a precise moment. So HORNO was born. Then over time, when I had already drawn enough eroticism, I wanted to focus on the feelings of a man, and at the same time try to get them out of the stereotype — SOFT HORNO was born.
I live in Argentina, a country in which the gay community is quite accepted. Quite. My intention with the two projects is to achieve little-by-little a kind of naturalization of sex and feelings between people of the same sex, seen by the heterosexual community that often discriminates something that should not be object of rejection. I know it is difficult, a complicated task to try to change the way of seeing something, but I try to contribute my part from my place.
With all due respect, compared to Tom of Finland’s drawings, yours seem more cartoony and cutesy, in a lovable, approachable way. I’ve seen other gay illustrators experiment with this style, too. Why do you think it become more popular in gay art?
[Laughs] Yes! It is visually the opposite, but in fact Tom of Finland is a great inspiration for everything I do — from the curvy curves that are in each illustration to the “humorous,” picaro (mischievous), innocent and perverted touch that is perceived.
What I try to do in some of my illustrations is initially generate confusion and then generate the “Ahhhh, that was it” moment. Then, when everyone understands the code, it is much easier to understand everything. Pastel and colorful colors, I use them so that the hot scene is a little easier to observe, that does not shock so much, generating different feelings for the spectator.
Today we are immersed in a culture of comics and animation of all kinds, it is impossible not to refer to something of all that. I can not say that the inspiration comes from something very particular, but all that is a great engine to generate new things.
It’s not always immediately clear what’s happening in some of your HORNO pieces. In some cases, it takes the viewer a while to figure out the sex act you’re depicting. Why do you feature gay sex with this particular close-up attention to detail?
Because it seems to me that explicit and mechanical sex is already very much everywhere. I like to emphasize individual sensual details that perhaps go unnoticed, but they are very important in sexual stimulation and also part of a whole.
Here are some of Horacio Abdala’s artwork from SOFT HORNO:
All of your work has an edge to it. It’s not just cute bears, because the guys will have either a piercing, a tattoo, long and/or colored hair, a dog collar or be in drag. Why is it important for you to highlight not only gay men, but these flourishes of style in particular?
Besides that I find it fun to play with accessories, colors, objects and attitudes, I find it interesting to take the “male bear” out of the common context and put him in unconventional situations. Remove it from the visual comfort zone, I find it fun and stimulating.
Why do you keep getting banned on Instagram? Some other gay artists have accused Instagram, YouTube and Twitter of censoring their work, too. Do you think social media admins are biased against suggestive gay art?
Mmmmm, this is the fifth time I make an Instagram account. I tried to upload the censored content, but they report it to me the same. We will see how long it lasts.
I really do not know if they are the moderators of the social networks or the people who denounce the photos as “inappropriate content.” It seems to me that there are still many people who denounce LGBTQ content simply because it bothers them and [because] it is more shocking than heterosexual sex.
I know cases in which gay illustrators close their accounts for showing a penis, and other Instagram accounts which show heterosexual explicit sex and do not receive any type of complaint.
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