Sunday, April 14, 2013

Antonio Lopez at FIT

How time does fly!  It has already been a  month since we attended a panel discussion at FIT featuring Roger and Mauricio Padilha, the brothers who authored the book about fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez titled: "Antonio - Fashion, Art, Sex and Disco"published by Rizzoli.  The title says it all.  

It says a lot about the current audience and the state of illustration in this age of Instagram and digital images that their book cover had to be a photograph and couldn't be an illustration. The cover shot recreates photographically the type of colorful illustration that graced the cover of Andy Warhol's Interview magazine.

The Padilhas were joined on stage by Antonio's friends and former models, Pat Cleveland an Corey Tippins. As the brothers talked about their inspiration to create the book, Pat and Corey narrated their experiences with Antonio, and also dished about themselves and their fellow models and the fashion designers of the times.

Antonio Lopez was among the pre-eminent fashion illustrators in the late 1970s through the 1980s, until his death in 1987. Like so many talented people at the time, Antonio died of AIDS, as did his partner and collaborator, Juan Ramos. In this photograph taken on Central Park West, Antonio appears on the far left along with Corey Tibbins, who recalled that he'd purchased the boots on a trip out west and had worn them to death. The women in the photo, Jane Forth and Cathee Dahmen (the first Native American model) show the range in women's fashions in the late seventies.

Pat Cleveland is flanked in this photo by Antonio and the young Karl Lagerfeld who was a good friend of and frequent collaborator with the illustrator.  If you're our age, you'll remember the body conscious knits men wore back then.  Antonio's here is a good example of that.  Karl too is wearing a shirt for the times.  Woven shirts till then had been restricted to tiny stripes.  The '70s repudiated all that, and asked why men couldn't also have the wild prints that women wore.  This is around when the terms 'unisex' was popular in clothes.

Antonio's illustration of models Pat Cleveland and Billy Burke brings together two models of that era who have been smack dab in the middle of our radar screens this spring. They both appeared in Versailles'73: American Runway Revolution, Deborah Riley Draper's documentary about the infamous fashion show in 1973 in which five American fashion designers and five French fashion designers staged a fund-raising show at Versailles to help restoration the building and gardens. We saw the film at FIT when eight of the original eleven models (including Pat Cleveland) and the director appeared onstage after the showing to discuss the film. Stephen Burrows was one of the five American designers at the show. A couple weeks ago, we attended the opening of the Museum of the City of New York's exhibition -- Stephen Burrows - When Fashion Danced -- about the designer, attended by both Burrows himself and Pat Cleveland. Small world!

Antonio Lopez' illustrations made even a ride on the New York City subway reading The Daily News seem glamorous. And trust us when we tell you that the subways back in the 1970s and 1980s could be a grim and gritty experience.

Much of his advertising work mixed photographic images with drawings, such as this Yves Saint Laurent ad. Antonio's circle of friends included Bill Cunningham. According to Wikipedia, circa 1966, Antonio introduced him to photographer Bill Montgomery who gave Cunningham his first camera.

The main image on the lower left appears to be a caricature of the artist.

Wouldn't this shoe illustration fit right in an issue of today's Vogue or Bazaar or W magazine?

When Antonio was first making a name for himself, the specter of AIDS had not yet overshadowed and decimated the art, fashion, film and music industries, so this illustration was making a political statement of a different sort.

Here is another example of the successful mix of photography and illustration.

Some of his work was every bit as colorful and psychedelic as anything Peter Max was producing at the time.

Antonio was a fixture at Fiorucci in New York City. The Italian store was the most avant garde of the Manhattan boutiques in the flowering of the disco era.

Antonio could wield a camera as well as he could a paint brush, pencil or pen. This hilarious Almond Joy take-off with Grace Jones is an example of his wonderful theatrical sensibility.

Karl Lagerfeld and Antonio working on another project.  That's Jerry Hall on the left.

He photographed anyone who was anyone -- or was soon to be someone -- at the time, like his photos of Paloma Picasso.

The gentleman on the right is none other than Karl Lagerfeld during his body building days.

The lovely Tina Chow, who also later died of AIDS.  Tina put together a collection of Mariano Fortuny dresses before the textiles of the early 20th century were properly appreciated.  She might be wearing one of his diaphanous creations in this photo.

Pat Cleveland said this photo of her in a sleeping bag helped inspire those goose down quilted sleeping bag coats first popular in the early 1980s.  She makes it look so obvious, but at the time it was a revolutionary idea.

His photograph of a very sophisticated version of a down jacket was a show stopper.

Antonio (right) could be every bit as dapper as the subjects of his drawings and photographs.

Andy Warhol, an early and long time supporter, with one of his drawings.  When  Andy started Interview in 1969, Antonio was one of his go-to illustrators.

Model Jane Forth was famous for the barely-there, feather-like shaved eyebrows shown here.  They gave her a starkly ephemeral and exotic look.

More than three decades later, even with her eyebrows grown in, Jane Forth today remains as stunning and stylish as she was in her 1980s heyday.  (Photo by Veronica Vargas).

Antonio gets into the picture in one of the fashion shoots.  Model Donna Jordan is wearing her famous striped hat, which Pat Cleveland said could be twisted into a small bundle for storage and be snapped open to wear.  (Wouldn't somebody make a bundle if he or she could license the design and recreate this fabulous hat?)

His early work has a naivete that is quite endearing.  Check out how the stripes actually leave the dresses and undulate out into thin air.  And as for the hair, we ALL did our best to look like that.

His illustrations of the male of the species emphasized masculinity with a touch of femininity.  This character is stepping right out of the frame.  Lopez found inspiration everywhere.  Here you can see he's taken from the illustrations of the '20s and '30s.

This gent also breaks out of the confines of the frame to show off his ensemble.

This color illustration of an Olympic moment oozes athleticism mixed with a healthy dose of fashion.

This pair and their mirror images give the viewer an interesting perspective not only on what they are wearing but also what they are thinking.

Beach bunnies in a VW bug eating ice cream and popsicles -- endless summer!

This fantastical illustration captures the imagination and commands the audience's attention.

Antonio's combination of black and white with shocks of color was very pop culture.

Marge Simpson never looked so futuristic or sophisticated.

This illustration of the lady and her violins has a decidedly jazz age vibe.

His fashion illustrations are so lusciously rich, they exist as art on their own merit, irrespective of the link to whatever product they were highlighting.

This pair, handling the spotlights and camera, turned the tables on their creator.

How gorgeous is this drawing?  Works of the very best illustrators, like  Fraver (Frank Verlizzo), Robert Richards and Antonio, have their own signature look and are instantly recognizable.  The 1980s were "prime time" for the art of illustration and was the decade when all three began to be noticed, to receive public recognition and to produce their most creative work.

Rompers and sunglasses on a motorcycle never looked so good.

The male character looks like something out of Yellow Submarine.

We just had to end with one of his drawings of a lady in a turban!  Sort of Claude Montana meets Ninotchka.  We hope you enjoyed our description of the evening as much as we did bringing it to you.  (Now go out and buy the book!)

You might ask - and a good question it would be - what a graffiti'd truck (opening photo) has to do with Antonion Lopez. To which the answer is: welllll, not much. Best we can say is that we took the picture outside of FIT. We would have loved to have a picture of us with the panel, but they were busy signing books afterward, and we were starstruck and abashed. And of course we forgot to photograph ourselves inside the venue. Still, it IS a picture of colorful art. We're trying to do better, but you have no idea how hard it is without a camera crew!


  1. Thank you for reminding me of his genius! This was a sensational trip! xxoo

  2. What an exciting romp you've given us! Thank you!

    A foldable, broad-brim hat is available here:

    but you'll have to draw your own stripes on it.

  3. I miss the glory days of fashion illustration and wish that current magazines used more of it instead of photographs. It is definitely art, regardless of what product it is advertising, and Lopez' work is gorgeous! I loved seeing the photos of Lagerfield when he was raven-haired and weighed more than 98 lbs.

  4. The sophisticated down jacket is that and more! It was designed by Charles James in 1937, believe it or not. ~Lelia

  5. Great to be apart off fashion illustrators of 20th cenuary.
    frederick watson Canada