El Museo del Barrio is pleased to present an exhibition on the work of the fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez (1943-1987). This exhibition will explore various aspects of the work of this important artist, developing thematic sections that focus on high fashion illustration, his relationship to particular models, his shoe and jewelry designs, and images of people he came to know and love from the streets of New York City.
Antonio Lopez was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico on February 11, 1943. The family migrated to New York City when Antonio was seven and he attended P.S. 77 on East 104th Street. To keep her son off the streets, Lopez’s mother, a seamstress, would ask him to draw flowers for her embroideries. He also helped his father, a mannequin maker, to apply make-up and stitch wigs on the figures. At the age of twelve, Lopez earned a scholarship to the prestigious Traphagen School of Fashion in New York, which provided Saturday programs for children. He went on to attend the High School of Art and Design. Upon graduation, Lopez was accepted to the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Lopez went on to illustrate fashions for Women’s Wear Daily and The New York Times and eventually became a free-lance artist for many of the top fashion publications, including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and Andy Warhol’s Interview. He is known to have “discovered” or formed lasting friendships with women like Pat Cleveland, Tina Chow, Jerry Hall, Grace Jones and Jessica Lange. He collaborated with the noted designer Charles James, creating an illustrated inventory of Charles’ fashion designs (now in the collection of the Chicago History Museum). With his friend and business partner, Juan Ramos, Lopez moved to Paris where they both worked with Karl Lagerfeld and many other designers.
Through his work, Lopez made great strides in exploring and representing the ethnic or racialized body within the world of high fashion. His imagery helped to develop and underscore a new canon of beauty throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He died in Los Angeles of complications related to AIDS on March 17, 1987 at the age of 44.
A team of art historians, scholars of fashion history, gender and communications studies and other experts will participate in the organization of this exhibition. The show’s co-curators are Rocío Aranda-Alvarado, Curator at El Museo del Barrio and Amelia Malagamba-Ansótegui, a scholar from Arizona State University and University of Texas San Antonio. In 2003, Dr. Malagamba wrote an important essay on Antonio Lopez for the Smithsonian Institution, which continues to be a key text today for the ways in which it explores Antonio’s attentiveness to race, gender and the body.
A selection of works in the exhibition come from the Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, directed by Paul Caranicas. Additional works are borrowed from various private collections in New York City.
Antonio Lopez, Carol Labrie, NYC, 1969, Marker and color overlay, 18” x 24”, Courtesy of the Estate of Antonio Lopez & Juan Ramos