For the rarefied few who inhabited the art and fashion worlds of New York and Paris in the late ’60s and ’70s, one of the most unforgettable figures of that circle was the Puerto Rican-American illustrator Antonio Lopez. With the help of his partner, Juan Ramos, Lopez practically reinvented fashion illustration of that era, infusing it with fantasy, dynamism, longing, desire, unbridled fun, offbeat personality, and glamorous chic.
It’s no wonder that several of the models Lopez discovered ended up in Andy Warhol’s films—in fact, Lopez is a key part of the DNA of Interview magazine, appearing on the August 1973 cover in his signature fedora, illustrating the April 1975 “April in Paris” cover with Brigitte Bardot, and drawing or shooting Instamatics of Karl Lagerfeld at lunch or in the back of a car (among other Interview collaborations). No question, Antonio Lopez embodied the energy, sensuality, and possibility of the time. For those of us who weren’t there, filmmaker James Crump’s dazzling new documentary, Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco, does a spectacular job of returning us to the swirling scene of bohemian sophisticates, to the frenetic late-night Manhattan studio where Lopez drew, and to a social revolution that was bubbling up in the cultural capitals of America and Europe. Crump’s film isn’t just fun to watch; it’s an essential reminder of an artist and innovator who has been largely forgotten (Lopez died at age 44 in 1987 of AIDS; Ramos died in 1995 of AIDS).
“I became fascinated with Antonio through Interview when I was a teenager in rural Indiana,” Crump explains. “His magical life and milieu aroused me to no end and made me fantasize about the early 1970s in New York and Paris.” But Crump wisely sees a political potency behind the amazing archive materials. “Given the elements of race, ethnicity, and sexuality that Antonio injected into fashion—a Puerto Rican-born, Bronx-raised bisexual—the film needed to be produced now.” In honor of this lost aesthetic groundbreaker, we’ve asked some of Lopez’s closest friends to reflect on what it was about the man that made him such a force.
“Antonio was an innovator. If you weren’t considered the standard beauty, he would make you beautiful through his eyes because that is how he saw you … There was never a dull moment with Antonio, even though he might have seemed shy and quiet when he was drawing. But, oh boy, when he danced. There wasn’t a person in Club Sept in Paris who didn’t want to dance with him … Antonio was fun to be with. He just loved people.” —Pat Cleveland“Antonio lived in the future and loved anything new. He predicted the break-dancing craze in 1973 when he took up an interest in street mime artists in Paris. He adored movement and felt that fashion illustration, art, and photography needed to move across the page. He was daring in his creativity. He wore white gloves with swim trunks in the photos we did for British Vogue in 1974—way before Michael Jackson. He made women look beautiful and he taught me so much about makeup and posing. He was adored by Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalí, and Helmut Newton and many of the artists of our time. He inspired everyone around him.”—Jerry Hall“In my lifetime there have only been a few very magical human beings—two, in fact: Jean-Michel Basquiat and Antonio Lopez. They both died young. They were young poets, pure of heart, their aura, their charisma, their sensitivity, their creativity was beyond all others. And both of them had a lot of pain. An artist should have pain. Pain enriches the soul.” —Michael Chow
“When I think of Antonio, I see him many places—the very first time laid eyes on him, walking down the grand stairway like a prince at Bethesda Fountain for the ‘be-ins,’ dressed in red from head to toe, a red fedora crowning this stunning vision. I see him in his studio behind his drawing board, his station in life, perched forward on a stool with intent, focus, and direction, Juan behind his shoulder. His hand gliding across paper like a magic wand, creating magic—images truly beyond their time.”—Donna Jordan“Antonio had the gift. He was able to create with his hand the images that expressed what we longed for but did not know. So many of us tried to copy him, vainly hoping to break through our limited abilities only to realize how deep this man’s talent lay. Antonio chose fashion as his muse and orbit. It represented modernity, a climate and source of immediate reference from which to launch. He smelled good. His shirts were from Mr. Fish of London. His waist was small and defined. His boots were snakeskin, and his hats were velvet. His hair fell in dark curls. He danced like a bullfighter. If his gaze fell upon you, fight you might, surrender was inevitable.”—Corey Tippin“In the late ’60s, fashion illustration was sketchy, imprecise slashes and flourishes that betrayed an uncertainty about fashion itself. Then I saw Antonio’s drawings—clear, pure lines and bright colors that were an idealization of girls like me, of the present, of fashion. He understood and conveyed what was magic about our time—an elegance of line and attention to detail that remain unmatched to this day; an understanding of how to extend the essence of the garment he was drawing so that the longing that animated it was clear.”—Joan Juliet Buck
“Antonio was atypical in that he could do so many different styles of drawing. It was almost photographic in that you could recognize the models, but he always threw fantasy in. He got a mood into a picture rather than just a record of the dress—how the girl would feel in the outfit. It wasn’t about perfect beauty. His models were people of substance, crazy characters. Antonio lived in a very colorful world. He was a long time at the top, top, top in fashion and would be still had he not died. Of course, his was a medium that is no longer supposedly relevant today. That’s a shame.” —Grace Coddington