Everything you see today, Antonio was doing in 1978. Like his diary pages, which, looking at them now, were really a three-dimensional version of Instagram. The large pages from his Aquabee sketchbooks were records of his days: a sketch from a session with his friend and muse Jerry Hall; a photo of himself from the pages of Italian Vogue; thoughts on a day that ended the next day, at 6:30 a.m. But unlike the way we all use Instagram, Antonio didn’t edit. He was there. It was all there, full-on—it’s, like, Show it to me! Give it to me! He revealed everything, because his curiosity manifested in revelation. What I’m left with, after looking at his life’s work, the thousands of illustrations, paintings, and diary pages in his archives, is that Antonio was prescient. He was a fortune-teller. That’s why I’m so excited about the show of his work at El Museo del Barrio.
What we are going for in fashion now, what we are responding to culturally, Antonio had already recognized the importance of by 1978—and he was just documenting his life. He was incorporating celebrities into his work. He was collaborating with other artists and designers. He was mixing high society with the street. He blended the worlds of fashion, music, and art. His eyes were seeing so much. I agree with Giorgio Armani, who once sat for Antonio for a portrait, when it comes to why Antonio matters now. It’s not that “illustration is back” or some kind of “what’s old is new” thing. Mr. Armani told me, “His talent is too unique to be classified in any trend.” And that’s the most modern thing about Antonio’s work. That’s why there is a documentary, Antonio 70, coming out next year. His work at once defies trends and sums them all up.
"Antonio Lopez: Future Funk Fashion” is on view at New York’s El Museo del Barrio June 14 through November 26. 1230 Fifth Ave.; 212-831-7272; elmuseo.org.