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BOOKCLUBBIN’ — Antonio: Fashion, Art, Sex & Disco

Does anything in life matter besides fashion, art, sex and disco? Short answer: no. In addition to my meditation mantra, those have always been the main tenants of my life and the same can be said for fashion illustrator and photographer Antonio Lopez. Lopez is largely forgotten today, but the new book from Rizzoli, Antonio: Fashion, Art, Sex & Disco, will easily change that.

Authors Roger and Mauricio Padilha offer a rich, detailed look at one of the most prolific forces behind 20th century fashion, accompanied by Antonio’s brilliant illustrations and candid Instamatic photographs of his famous entourage — Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent, Andy Warhol, Bill Cunningham and André Leon Talley — who provides the foreword — were all intimates of the inimitable illustrator.

Along with his business and one-time romantic partner, Juan Ramos, Antonio completely revolutionized fashion illustration, in the process elevating it to a true art form. His drawings in the early 60s showing women doing ordinary things in everyday settings — living in fashion rather than for it — proved groundbreaking, and from there his imagination soared. He added dynamic movement, fantastical design and a provocative sexuality to his work, while referencing art history and reflecting the social climate.

What owning this book says about you: “Decadence is my middle name.” Antonio’s incredible talent propelled him from Spanish Harlem to the cream of Parisian society where he and his glittering entourage ruled France’s answer to Studio 54, Club Sept. Antonio’s drawings and Instamatics from that time paint a vivid portrait of a world sans rules inhabited by beautiful people sans inhibitions.

What will people say?!: “Could you take that smut somewhere else? There are kids present.” There’s a lot of nip happening in this tome. What can you say, the 70s were a very sexually liberated time. Along with photographers Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin and Chris von Wangenheim, Antonio began exploring some highly sexual themes ranging form S&M to auto-erotic asphyxiation and the book shares a healthy serving of nudity, both male and female, both illustrated and real life.

How this book will make your fashion brain grow: Antonio provides a brief history to the relatively obsolete practice of commercial fashion illustration. From the 60s until his death in 1987 from complications of AIDS, Antonio’s work was splashed across the pages of Vogue, Elle, WWD, Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times and Interview, as well as in advertisements for Oscar de la Renta, Norma Kamali, Missoni, Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Avenue. Antonio was as respected and as in demand as any fashion photographer, but as fashion illustration’s greatest genius and most visible force, his death signaled the end of an era.

If you like this, you’ll love: Though out-of-print now, 1983′s Antonio’s Girls would be a great companion piece. The illustrator’s first career retrospective, it focuses on the women whose careers he and Juan helped launch with their exacting eye, such as Grace Jones, Jane Forth, Pat Cleveland, Donna Jordan, Jessica Lange and his greatest muse, Jerry Hall.

Antonio: Fashion, Art, Sex & Disco, Rizzoli 2012. Cover: “Ribbon” series, NYC, 1977 Nina Gaidarova photographed by Antonio

Written by Lester Brathwaite

I was center square from 1969 to 1978, during which I perfected the art of the zing as well as a crippling cocaine addiction. Bea Arthur was responsible for both. @LesFabian lester dot brathwaite at gmail