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Clara Lopez Illustration Essay

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CLARA LÓPEZ

CLARA LÓPEZ

Me llamo Clara aunque me llaman de todo. Soy licenciada en Bellas Artes y hago dibujos de sueños, experiencias, músicas, borrascas, chubascos débiles y sentimientos a flor de piel.

Nací en la mitad de la gloriosa década de los 80 y fui un bebé punki. En los 90 mis brazos y piernas se tornaron más largos y en seguida pude llegar al botón de llamar al ascensor, lo cual fue uno de mis logros más importantes.

Lo que vino después fue un torbellino de éxitos y fracasos regados con lágrimas y sonrisas. -)

He aprendido algunas cosas y otras no. Me gusta inventarme identidades y tengo otras aficiones más normales. Lo que he venido a hacer aquí aun no lo sé pero me gusta adivinar la respuesta usando un lápiz y un papel.

My name is Clara, people call me whatever they want, though. I graduated in Fine Arts and I usually make drawings of dreams, experiences, music, squalls, weak rain showers and skin-deep feelings.

I was born in the middle of the glorious 80s and I was a punky baby. In the 90s my arms and legs turned into a longer ones, so I could reach the lift’s button, which has been one of my biggest achievements.

What came afterwards was a success and failures whirlwind, watered with tears and smiles. -)

There are some things I’ve learned and some that I haven’t. I like making up identities but I’ve got other “more ordinary” hobbies as well. I still don’t know what I am here for, but I like guessing the answer with a pencil and a paper.

Other articles

Antonio Lopez fashion illustration

Antonio Lopez Fashion Illustration

Antonio Lopez is the Picasso of fashion illustration. Mostly known as just plain ‘Antonio’, he was a giant in the field of fashion illustration. He captured the pulse of style from the 60s to the 80s, and is still revered as the most inspiring illustrator by today’s practitioners. He worked with a variety of materials including pencil, pen and ink, charcoal, watercolor and polaroid film. His work appeared frequently in Vogue, Harper’s bazzar, Elle and Interview.

Recording and predicting contemporary style trends, Antonio also used his immense versatility to adopt a broad range of art movements, from Pop Art to Surrealism.

For Antonio, life – bestial and sublime – surpassed any fiction. His illustrations and photographs capture the beautiful people who are part of celebrity folklore, and who were more often than not his friends: Jerry Hall (to whom he was engaged), Grace Jones, Mick Jagger, Audrey Hepburn, Andy Warhol (with whom he worked on Interview magazine), Paloma Picasso and Marlene Dietrich.

Packed with previously unpublished material, this is a thrilling retrospective about an artist who is represented in major collections from the Metropolitan to the Louvre. Even posthumously, Antonio has not relinquished his grip on the fashion world: his style and quest for beauty live on.

More information and Biography at www.wikipedia.org

French Trendsetter, living & working in New York. art direction, trend forecasting, styling and designing are part of my daily activities. PS: Sorry for my French, I don't pretend to be a writer and I know that my writing is not the best.

Antonio Lopez - Fashion Illustration Gallery

Antonio Lopez

Antonio Lopez was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico in 1943. His family moved to Spanish Harlem in 1950 where he showed early promise as an artist making drawings for his mother who was a seamstress and dressmaker. In the early 1960s he enrolled on a course at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York where he met Juan Ramos who became his life long partner, and collaborator. While a student at FIT he participated in a work-study program at Womens Wear Daily where his talent was immediately recognized. He was offered a job at WWD and dropped out of FIT before joining The New York Times in 1963 where his style continued to develop. He was soon freelancing for Harper’s Bazaar, British Vogue and French Elle.

In 1969 he moved to Paris with Ramos where they lived in an apartment owned by Karl Lagerfeld. At this point he was being commissioned by all the leading fashion magazines and contributed several pages of drawings to the April in Paris issue of Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine. Antonio and Ramos returned to New York in 1975 and set up a studio at 876 Broadway. Three years later they moved into a space on Union Square West. In 1981 he began collaborating with Anna Piaggi on the magazine Vanity. His self-portrait graced the cover of the first issue launched in September 1981.

Amongst many others, Antonio hung out with and drew Jerry Hall, with whom he shared a flat, Grace Jones, Pat Cleveland, Tina Chow and Jessica Lange, all of whom featured in the 1982, Antonio Girls published by New York Congreve. This book was followed in 1985 by Antonio’s Tales of 1001 Nights published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang.

Antonio died from an AIDS related illness in Los Angeles 1987. He was forty four years old.

Published by Thames & Hudson, 2004

Published by Schirmer/Mosel, 1994

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Body essay

Amelia Malagamba-Ans�tegui and Ram�n Rivera-Servera, from The University of Texas at Austin

T he collaborative work of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos under the signature of Antonio, has been primarily discussed within a framework of formal influences that range from the Baroque to Surrealism to Pop Art, (Pablo Picasso, 1995; le Bourhis, 1994; Agnes Martin, 1987). The transformation of the object of fashion by Antonio and his borrowing from artists such as Francisco de Goya (Spanish 1746-1828), Georges Braque( French, 1882-1963), and Roy Lichtenstein (American, 1923-1997), among others confirms the multiple artistic influences that such criticism traces in their body of work. Similarly, critics have positioned the social setting of Antonio's work within the luxurious world of high fashion and celebrity culture. Certainly, Antonio's relationship to fashion magnates such as Karl Lagerfeld and Paloma Picasso as well as visual artists of the ranks of Andy Warhol and fashion editors such as Anna Piaggi accurately locate him as a participant in this highly elite circuit. It seems however, that there are other equally important influences that have shaped Antonio's artistic oeuvre have been generally overlooked. Those influences do not come from the rarified spaces of high fashion but from the world of street culture, his own cultural background as a Nuyorican man, and the alternative spaces of queer sensibility and practices.

R eferences abound to the influences of "ghetto culture," oversized boom boxes, the "jungle" quality of the streets of New York, and the raw sexuality of the racialized body, but little attention has been paid to the affirmative articulation of these subjects in Antonio's work. If mentioned, these issues have been addressed within the context of the exotiziced gaze of high fashion. Although the insertion of these issues in Antonio's constructed narratives is sometimes blunt (see plate with the two male figures in white suits and black hats facing each other) and at other times subtle (plate p. 128), his work necessitates a critical reading that is complicit with the subtextual articulations in his work. In this context, the subtext is not featured as a "minor" or "side" reading; rather, it occupies a central place that parallels the reading provided by the formal and established evaluation of his work.

T his reading is thus an act of recovery and relocation of the potential centrality of alternative discourses constructed by Antonio within the world of fashion. If high fashion has historically operated under a visual heritage governed by an economy that values the Western tradition in the arts and construes the exotic "other" within a dynamic of appropriation, Antonio's visual trajectory directs us toward an approach where such economy is differently articulated. In the illustrations of Antonio the seemingly fethishized images of the "other" --- be it the urban gay man or the African American or Latina woman --- provide at the same time a intimate and solidary quality that is far removed from its traditional construction. This is not to suggest that there is only one valid reading of Antonio's work. In fact, it is precisely with and through the dominant discourses of the culture of high fashion that Antonio was able to create a strategy of representation that questions and critiques the world of fashion itself.

T he work of Antonio participates fully within the production and circulation of fashion as a commercial product. The representations of men and women dressed in high couture are imbued with playfulness and pleasure. These qualities in his work contribute to the selling of the image and the clothing. Play and pleasure are sexually charged, as is demonstrated in his work for the Ives Saint-Laurent campaign in 1978 (plate p. 103). Antonio uses formal elements that help construct these qualities.

T he two male figures in this illustration confront the viewer not only with of the frontal position of their bodies, but with gazes that dramatically intersect that of the onlooker. The gaze is at once challenging and devilishly seductive. The geometric quality of the bodies inhabits almost all the space. The figures are depicted from a vantage point that privileges the low parts of the bodies, creating a twin-pyramids effect that emphasizes the pelvic area in the mid- section of the composition. The figure on the right holds a leather briefcase that partially covers the genital area and at the same time calls attention to it with the pointing gesture of the opened triangular flap. The other figure holds in his left hand a pair of pointed shoes that resolves the phallic drama suggested by the briefcase. It is in this complex interaction of the juxtaposition of the accessories that the sexualized narrative is addressed through the language of the fetish.

I f the above narrative confirms the traditionally sexualized nature of the fashion advertising, the dialogue between the two figures and their accessories provide at the same time a reaffirmation of an aesthetic of queer desire. This aesthetic is present throughout most of Antonio's oeuvre. In his motorcycle drawings, for example, Antonio explores queer sensibilities more explicitly. In his illustrations for Gentleman's Quarterly. from 1974 (Plate p. 88), Antonio fully exploits the iconic figure of the motorcycle not only as an idealized symbol of bravado masculinity but also exposes the ostensible sexual narrative behind its historical articulation. The motorcycle in this instance maneuvers through its own epistemology and emerges, much like the accessories above, re-articulated within an economy of queer desire.

T he explosion of the motorcycle as a quintessential bad-boy icon can be traced to the pioneer works of Laslo Benedek with The Wild One, a film from 1953 and the literary work by Jack Kerouac, On the Road, published in 1957. Both of them considered within their medium, as some of the most influential works of the 1950s, shaping the popular culture of the decade. Benedek and Kerouac created iconic figures that embodied the philosophies that addressed the transitorial character of the times and the emergence of youth culture. The nomadic referent comes for these authors from a highly male-oriented location. The emphasis and the centrality of the male characters, as is the case with the Marlon Brando role in the Benedek film, and Kerouac's main protagonist, Dean Moriarty, speak about a male partnership and social organization in which demonstrations of affection and solidarity are allowed. The demonstrations of complicity and affection are charged with "maleness." At the same time that the formula of the conventional rituals of male socialization portrayed in other Hollywood films is used, a subtle shift creates a subtext. This subtext of homosocial affectual exchange was easily appropriated and eroticized within the male queer community.

B y the 1960s the motorcycle, already established as part of mass culture, had become a powerful icon of subcultural transgression. Ironically, the ascension of the motorcycle into the popular imaginary marks its transformation into a high-priced commodity. It is precisely at the intersection between the motorcycle's transgressive qualities and its conflicted transformation into a symbol of hip status that Antonio demonstrates the fluidity of the object within multiple symbolic spaces and economies. Antonio makes the icon his own, manipulating the semiotic layers of nomadic masculinity and queer sexuality to create a contemporary version of the cowboy horse. This reconfiguration of frontier masculinity is transformed into the animated chaos of the new urban man.

I n the illustrations for Gentleman's Quarterly, Antonio creates a chaotic scene through the dynamic montage of men and machine. There is no hierarchy between the body and the motorcycle in this multiperspective rendition of arms, legs, faces, abdomens in relation to headlights, tires, gas caps, handles, and accessories. Rather than portraying the accessory as a passive complement to the body, the accessory competes with the body. In this competition the clothes are partially ripped from the bodies and the skin is torn in an act of uncovering that fully sexualizes the idealized flesh. These pulling and ripping actions are executed by multiple disembodied hands, revealing the subtextual narrative of queer spectatorship.

I ssues of race also appear in Antonio's early oeuvre. While the absence of representations of the full-fleshed bodies of women and men of color was a standard practice within the world of fashion illustration, their aesthetic sensibilities were ever present. This presence in the art and illustrations from the late 1800s on was, however, that of the exoticism of the "other." World-renowned masters in the ranks of Pablo Picasso, Paul Gaugin, and Henri Matisse found their inspiration and aesthetic influences in the colonized territories of Africa and Asia. It was a fascination with cultural otherness that enabled the historical innovations of European art and gave raise to a modernist aesthetic. Antonio cites eloquently from this tradition, extending its influence in contemporary visual practices, but marking within the aesthetic traditions of the visual arts and the exotic extravagance of fashion the emergent body of the racial other.

A s early as 1963, Antonio created representations of women of color in his illustrations. In Fashions of the Times (Plate p.71) from the same year, Antonio presents Picasso-esque images of models in lightweight cotton mini-dresses, subtly waving their hair in cubist fashion. This small gesture, together with the shaded tonality of their skin, inscribes a different bodily presence within the world of fashion illustration. Furthermore, the tropical reference articulated by the decorative flower headdress and earring on the models, proposes a different narrative for the origins of the flower-print- design dress worn by the figure on the left. The image then, innocent in its representation of the fashionable wear, radically relocates the source material of fashion to the tropical lands referenced in the adornment and the bodies of the racialized models.

T his reference to the tropicalized gaze of the fashion industry is most explicitly articulated in Antonio's 1971 illustrations for Italian Vogue (Plates pp. 80-81). Here, the full bodies of African American women are traced in the whiteness of the paper. It is the brown color of their flesh, together with the green of the printed palm trees that flash out, while the white clothes blend into the background. These women address their gaze to the viewer in an oblique and coquettish manner. Their faces have a familiar ring. They reference famous 1930s singer and dancer Josephine Baker. Furthermore, the body poses of these models talk directly to the well-known poses of the dancer. La Baker inspired Antonio not only as a famous African American woman, but he seems to recall for the viewer what Baker came to symbolize: the denunciation of segregation and Jim Crow. For Baker the only alternative to the racial tensions and violence of the times was self-exile. Antonio's illustrations of African American women's bodies with so many referents to Baker and her art and times seems to bring into the present, a counter action that is equally important, he performs in his illustrations a symbolic act of desegregation.

T he triangulation of the three figures in this composition displays a hierarchy that emphasizes Josephine Baker's star quality while at the same time pointing out her roots in African American performance. Baker is at the upper central part of the composition, coming out from behind the stage curtains. Her left leg seems to emerge from the body of the figure at the right. Although the massive figures of the male performers occupy more than half of the space, the figure of Baker dominates. The emergence of Baker's fame is both a reaffirmation of her African roots and at the same time an act of separation from the spectacle of blackness in the US stage. The performer had a unique position within the European avant-garde. She was held, by her European audiences, as a revolutionary artist that embodied both the subject and object of the modernist aesthetic.

A ntonio's interest in the figure and symbolism of Josephine Baker is better express in a powerful appropriation that the artist does of Paul Colin's famous promotional poster for Baker's La Revue N�gre, performed at Paris' renowned Champs �lys�es in 1925. Antonio's interpretation of Colin's poster was published in Marie Claire, in 1983 (Plate p.126). The artist manipulates the original, which positions Josephine as the central figure, surrounded by two African American male musicians. The dancer is represented in one of her famous poses, wearing a revealing 1920s flapper's attire with strong African influences. The male musicians are depicted in black tuxedos and the figure on the right wears the stereotypical white Derby hat. Their exaggerated facial features were fashioned as those in American minstrel shows.

A ntonio's appropriation of Colin's poster can be read as an act of identification. In a mirroring impulse, Antonio uses Colin's poster as a reference to his own efforts to construct/deconstruct his latinidad within the world of fashion. In his illustration, the male figures remain. La Baker disappears, however, and it is through this intervention, that Antonio successfully addresses the absence of women of color in the world of fashion. In her place, two figures of white female models appear. Unlike the narrative of emergence staged in Colin's illustration of Josephine Baker as the product of African American popular entertainment, these figures are superimposed over the minstrel faces, exposing instead a narrative of surrogation dominant in the fashion world. In this, dynamic whiteness appears through a colonizing maneuvering of its racial subordinates. Antonio addresses this substitution critically by merely sketching the models, in their white suits, over the voluminous male characters, which maintain the colors and placing of the original composition.

T he emphasis on the presence of whiteness, although foregrounded in the composition, has a ghostly character that blends into the background, pointing out its insidious role as the subject and author of representation. The iconic status of Baker and Antonio's authorship is underlined by the disappearance of the dancer. The act of disappearance and substitution is then to be read as an ironic exposure of the dominant constructs of fashion illustration and the representation of whiteness in general, and the emergence in that world of a Nuyorican artist such as Antonio.

A ntonio's fascination with the iconic figure of Josephine Baker, demonstrated in numerous other illustrations, is no coincidence (Plates pp. 177). The stardom of the often- stereotypical performances of blackness and her marginal character within US political discussion of race, together with the recognition of her artistic innovation in European art circuits, mirror Lopez's own negotiations of his Puerto Ricanness within the fashion industry. These negotiations are enabled by identification through race, especially with the Africanist presence in the Puerto Rico of Lopez's birth and the United States of his youth and early adulthood. His years living in New York and his professional work in the world of fashion certainly provided him with a distinct experience as a man of color.

L opez's migration to Europe, where his work was first recognized and internationalized, parallels Baker's own strategic exile. In his travel, Lopez gains a distance from the spectacularity of otherness, both sexual and racial, prevalent in U.S. popular entertainment and mass media but carries with him its symbolic economies, articulating them critically in difference.

A reading of Antonio's oeuvre ought to consider the radical potential of Lopez's represent- ations. His playful manipulation of the stereotype creates a critical narrative that both recognizes the historical valence of otherness, albeit its often homophobic and racist logic, and liberates it for contemporary rearticulations. Antonio's images cite pleasurably and irreverently from these discourses to produce minoritarian affirmations that are proud and unapologetic.

T he strategy is purposely ambiguous, operating from within the very systems that his visuals critique, and thus incredibly powerful in his dare to engage a larger and more diverse audience. His work thus revels on the multiplicity of meanings and desires provoked by a single image and challenges criticism to remain dynamic, enjoying the clear articulations of high art traditions evident in his work, but searching for the equally important genealogies articulated in his strategy.