The forgotten fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez


Antonio Lopez, a Puerto Rican-American illustrator, was one of the most prominent figures of that exclusive group of people who lived in the fashion and art industries of Paris and New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With imagination, energy, desire, irrepressible fun, artistic charisma and dazzling elegance, Lopez, together with his colleague Juan Ramos, practically redefined fashion illustration of the time.

Not surprisingly, most of the models Lopez featured were in the films of Andy Warhol. In fact, Lopez is an integral part of the DNA of Interview magazine. He appeared on the cover of the August 1973 issue wearing his trademark fedora and illustrated the cover, “April in Paris.” He sketched Brigitte Bardot, made “Instamatics” of Karl Lagerfeld at lunch or in the back seat of a car. Undoubtedly, Antonio Lopez reflects the power, sensuality and potential of the time.

Filmmaker James Crump’s spectacular documentary “Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco” succeeds in giving those of us who were never there a glimpse of the tense bohemia and frenetic, late-night Manhattan performance space where Lopez created his work, and of the revolutionary movement that erupted in cultural institutions across America and Europe. Crump’s film is not only entertaining, but also serves as an important reminder of an inventor and artist who has been largely forgotten (Lopez died of AIDS in 1987 at the age of only 44).

Antonio had a creative flair. He could imagine any person as attractive because he saw them that way, even if they didn’t have the usual elegance. Even though Antonio seemed shy and reserved when sketching and drawing, there was never a dull moment with him. However, when he performed, no one in the Paris “Club Sept” resisted his invitation to dance with him, and he was the center of attention. It was truly a pleasure to be with him. He simply loved people.

Antonio loved almost everything that was new and existed in the future. When he became interested in street mimes in Paris in 1973, he foresaw the trend of breakdancing. He loved the movement and believed that fashion photography, art and illustration should work together. He displayed a bold creativity. He knew how to pose and use cosmetics to make women look stunning. Most artists of his time, including Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Helmut Newton and others, adored him. Everyone around him drew inspiration from him.

In his time, there were only a handful of truly remarkable people: Jean-Michel Basquiat and Antonio Lopez were among these magical people. Both died at a young age. They were middle-aged poets with pure hearts who stood out from the crowd because of their charisma, charm, sensitivity and originality. And both suffered from their times.

Antonio was indeed blessed with talent. He was able to create with his hands the visual representations of what many people desired but did not understand. They all tried in vain to imitate him, hoping to overcome their own limitations, only to discover how extraordinarily talented this man was.

Antonio’s favorite muse and his center of life was fashion. It served him as a symbol of modernity, a backdrop and an immediate point of reference. He had a pleasant demeanor. “Mr. Fish” from London, a clothing store, was the source of his clothes. His waist was narrow and shapely. He wore hats of velvet and shoes of snakeskin. He had curly brown hair. He performed a bullfighter-like dance. When his eyes were on them, even if people tried to fight back, they had to give up.

In the late 1960s, fashion illustration was characterized by shaky, flawed flourishes and slashes that betrayed a lack of faith in fashion itself. Then one came across Antonio’s illustrations with bright colors, clean lines, and an idealized depiction of women and the modern world of fashion. He was aware of how he could expand the essence of the garments he designed. The magic of his time was also his incomparable lines and attention to detail that accompanied the world of fashion.

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