Drawn to Art of Antonio Lopez

For three decades, Antonio Lopez was considered one of the most influential illustrators in fashion. Through his work for designers Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani, Gianfranco Ferre, Donna Karan and Gianni Versace, he turned one-dimensional sketches into sensual portraits of haute couture.

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, 35 of Lopez's original works are on display at Nordstrom MainPlace/Santa Ana through Oct 15.

Besides adding eroticism to fashion drawings, the artist, who dropped his last name professionally, is credited with being the inspiration behind such popular trends in the '60s and '70s as Mohawks, oversized jewelry and pierced ears for men.

Lopez, who died at age 44 in 1987, also launched the modeling careers of Jessica Lange, Jerry Hall and Grace Jones and was the first illustrator to use black models.

"Fashion is not just clothes or money or business. To me, it is the culmination of many diverse elements, from fine art to pop culture to computer graphics to foreign culture," he told The Times in 1985.

At Nordstrom, pieces in ink, color pen, watercolor and marker include drawings for several magazines--Vanity Fair, Italian Vogue and GQ--as well as department store advertisements, portraits of celebrities and fine art from his two books, "Antonio's Girls" (Congreve, 1982) and "Antonio's Tales From the Thousand and One Nights" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1985).

Lopez was born in Puerto Rico in 1943 and moved with his dressmaker mother to New York's Spanish Harlem when he was 8. He attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in the early '60s and a decade later became fashion's hotshot.

At a preview reception for the exhibit Sunday at Nordstrom, model Susan Baraz spoke to guests about Lopez's work. They had met at the Fashion Institute, and she became the first and last model he drew.

Shortly before his death, Lopez completed a series of anti-fashion fine art pieces, titled "Dictators' Wives," that expressed his wry response to Imelda Marcos and Michele Duvalier.

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