In the early 1980s, Ouka Leele emerged as La Movida’s most famous art photographer, producing surreal technicolour images that sat perfectly next to the provocative films of Pedro Almodóvar. Her break came through shooting the cover of Star, a Spanish magazine. Playboy and Penthouse followed suit.
The most striking of all her wildly surreal work was the Peluquería (hairdressing) series from 1979. “That was amazing,” she said in an interview for Jocks & Nerds Issue 20. “Friends of mine, most especially artists, Mariscal, Nazario, Peret, Ceesepe, El Hortelano, posed with objects on their heads [including luridly coloured lemons, wine glasses, tortoises, an aeroplane and a bright red octopus] and that experience was wonderful, there were many moments of laughter.”
So how did she achieve such vivid colours? “The watercolours already had very intense colours and when I put them on the glossy surface of the photo they were like stained glass enamels,” she said. “It was a very shocking result. They are very surreal but also I think there is some classicism there, even a touch of Leonardo in these images. And at the same time a very psychedelic colour. There are also hints of advertising and of course there is humour. It’s a very interesting cocktail.”
Madrid-based Loewe are now using Leele’s works for an exhibition and collection. The brand has transformed its flagship on Grand Via to display 19 images from the Peluqeria series. Women’s leather bags adorned with Leele’s images can also be bought in the store.
Leele’s hyper-vivid, surreal art photography acted as a metaphor for emerging from the drab Franco years towards a bright new future. Following the death of the General Franco in 1975, resulting in the dissolution of the Spanish dictatorship, the people of Madrid woke up. Pedro Almodovar said, “(La Movida) were simply a bunch of people that coincided in one of the most explosive moments in the country.”
Prior La Movida, censorship kept Spain in the dark from cultural development and progress, which was taking place around the rest of post-war Europe. To conservatives young and old, La Movida was a symbolic ‘up yours’.