Juilliard on the Cover of 'The New Yorker'

Thursday, Feb 22, 2024
Juilliard Journal
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Three students sitting on the large steps at Juilliard's front entrance each hold a copy of 'The New Yorker' magazine. The magazine cover features an illustration of a dance studio with large windows, showcasing people engaged in music and dance. The students smile and they all seem proud to be displaying the magazine.
Langston Lee (drama), Fiorela Miria (voice), and Danae Venson (composition)

Q&A With Sergio García Sánchez

Just after Thanksgiving, Juilliard got a wonderful surprise—we were on the cover of The New Yorker! The illustration, by Spanish artist Sergio García Sánchez, depicts a stylized version of the Kaufman Dance Studio on the Broadway side of the building, with active dance and jazz students inside. Turns out that García Sánchez had never visited Juilliard when he came up with the idea for illustrating this, his seventh New Yorker cover in three years. But since he is a university professor, all his work is preceded by meticulous research. He discussed his process from his home studio in Granada, Spain, with Boris De Los Santos, Juilliard’s senior graphic designer, over Zoom. Here are some excerpts from their conversation, which have been translated from Spanish and edited.

By Boris De Los Santos

You’ve done several New Yorker covers depicting iconic New York spaces—including the New York Public Library, Grand Central Station, Madison Square Garden, Central Park, and the Museum of Modern Art. Tell us about your process for this one.
It’s crucial for a New Yorker cover to tell a story. In this case, I wanted to explore the theme of music and movement. I searched for interesting music spaces in New York, and I was quickly drawn to Juilliard’s glass façade, which became an enormous panel on which I could tell a story.

I started by drawing the architecture with a frontal projection, which I love. Then, I had to choose which aspects of Juilliard to represent, and I opted for jazz and dance. The movement of the dancers was inspired by the work of Eadweard Muybridge [the pioneering 19th-century photographer who studied how photography depicts motion]. Though unlike Muybridge, I had each figure perform a small portion of the movement so that all together, they reproduce the entire sequence. I wanted the musicians to perform a piece of music, and for this, I selected a score fragment that matched the instrumentation, and I showed some of the musicians with multiple arms to create a sense of movement.

Also, for a New Yorker cover, you have to tell a story with a personal connection. This story connects with my adolescence and my admiration for the designer Milton Glaser [who designed a series of posters for Juilliard from 1980 to 1991 among many other well-known works]. It also connects with my memories of the 1980s TV series Fame [which takes place at New York City’s High School of the Performing Arts, the current iteration of which, LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts, is less than a block from Juilliard]. The TV show sparked my interest in attending art school. Additionally, the childhood nickname of my wife, Lola Moral (also an artist), was Danseuse. The girl on the cover is Lola’s comic book alter ego, and she is mimicking the movement of dancers she admires.

You have captured so many details, from the lobby of Alice Tully Hall to the lamp and the trees in the corner. How did you manage to include so much detail considering you live outside New York?
One of the most beautiful things I heard about this cover was that, upon receiving it, someone commented, “The color is exactly like the sunset in New York.” We live in Granada, and it is nothing like New York, and in fact, we have only been to New York twice—the last time was almost 10 years ago, when we did a book called Lost in NYC. Still, I think everyone knows what New York is like—when Lola and I were there, everything seemed familiar. This plays in our favor, as people have a very preconceived image of what New York is, sometimes more than New Yorkers themselves.

I have a documentation process for every piece I make, and I invest a lot of time in it. For this cover, I looked at the Juilliard architects’ website and studied the entire project and its concept before starting to draw. I like working with frontal projections, which have a lot to do with ancient drawing. Although it may seem modern, the concept of this illustration has similarities to Egyptian drawing, as seen in the hierarchy of layer representation in Egyptian tombs and temples from 3,000 years ago. Working this way, hierarchizing information in different layers and projecting frontally allows the reader to easily identify what I am drawing.

You’ve said your process of creating art is similar to the work of a composer.
Yes, especially in the field of multilinear narration, which is one of my specialties. To explain this, I use the analogy of a symphony’s score. Imagine the conductor’s score for a symphony: it shows all the instruments simultaneously, with an overall horizontal narrative line and one for each instrument, representing each character. This musical approach influences my approach to drawing. In fact, the title of my dissertation was Graphic Symphony.

Any advice for young people interested in the arts?
As a teacher and an art lover, I always advise my students to look into the future while also looking into the past. Innovation arises from a deep understanding of the past.

Boris De Los Santos is Juilliard’s senior graphic designer