With Boston’s major moment extended through July, a longer look at the impact of an iconic exhibition
“Knowing Storage Space was going to happen and be presented in locations not designed for artwork display gives artists and communities our power back and a chance to do intriguing work.”
Here, five individuals associated with RAR share their memories of Boston back then, what they gained from having RAR in their lives, and how, in 2019, we can continue to honor the groundwork RAR laid for a better Boston.
Though her next milestone birthday will arrive in 2021, acclaimed 88-year-old novelist Toni Morrison is receiving many bouquets now thanks to the Timothy Greenfield-Sanders film Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am. Alongside Una Great Movie, it also kickstarted the 21st Annual Roxbury International Film Festival (June 19-29) on opening night at the Museum of Fine Arts.
Following those screenings, RoxFilm will host films including Wheels, Power to Heal: Medicare and The Civil Rights Revolution, Solace, The Color of Art, and the New Zealand-based Vai (directed by eight different women), to name just a few. The festival’s closer will be the slam poets documentary
“I think it is very powerful, but also complicated. Queerness is like this big abstract concept and how do you put a border around that? And more importantly, should you?”
Legendary Harvard Square comic book shop celebrates 45 years of independence
“I want Lola’s to be the place to go if you want something that makes you stand out from the crowd and feel fierce,” Lyons said. “It’s an experience store that gives you the feeling of something tangible.”
As a recently christened aficionado of renowned fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez, it’s hard for me to comprehend that, about five years ago, his legacy nearly passed me by. I remember stopping in front of the M.A.C. Cosmetics shop, in Soho, to look at the window advert for their latest capsule collection, “Antonio’s Girls”. And I recall smiling, as it was refreshing to see three noticeably middle-aged models—I knew the one in the middle to be Jerry Hall, and much later, learned the other two were Marisa Berenson and Pat Cleveland—freeze-framed in dance, and wearing vibrant maxi bodycon dresses. Inside the shop, I saw that the packaging for “Antonio’s Girls” featured selected illustrations by an artist named Antonio Lopez, originally done in the 1980s. I thought they were so cute, bold, and detailed. They reminded me of Jem and the Holograms. But I didn’t make a purchase, on that day or any other, from the collection. Looking back, I believe I wanted more out of the color stories in the makeup. I was 26 years old, the same number of years that had passed since Lopez had died from AIDS at the age of 44 in 1987, although I wasn’t aware of that back in 2013.
Lopez’s creative spirit would find me again in 2018. This time around I encountered his beautiful illustrations and transgressive artwork—along with various details about his career and personal life—through director James Crump’s new film Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco =&0=& The film, in turn, led me to further research on Lopez—and indeed there are a small handful of critical sources published, like the 2012 tome Antonio Lopez: Fashion, Art, Sex & Disco, or the notes from a 2016 Museo del Barrio exhibit on his work, ANTONIO LOPEZ: Future Funk Fashion. Yet despite these studies and exhibitions, I often found myself thinking that Lopez and his talent were still undervalued in the dialogue about 20th-century fashion. (Alongside his immeasurable contributions in fashion and pop culture as an illustrator and visionary, he’s also credited with bringing to the forefront various women who would later become iconic in their own right, such as Hall, Cleveland, Grace Jones, actress Jessica Lange, and Carol LaBrie, who was the first Black woman to cover VOGUE Italia). I was also surprised that Lopez, as a Latinx bisexual man, working right at the dawn of the gay rights movement, had been minimally discussed by modern LGBTQ and sex-positive media, as queerness was not excluded from his creations.
“That he was initially overlooked has a lot to do with the rush of energy he gave to illustration, and at a time, the field was nearing its last gasp, succumbing to the dominance of lens-based imagery and photography,” Crump said, via email. In answering my questions, the director showed a clear sense of duty to advocate for Lopez—he notes, for instance, that in terms of receiving posthumous reverence beyond their initial niche, Lopez has faced significantly more hurdles than contemporaries Guy Bourdin and Chris von Wangenheim. “As the film points out,” Crump continued, “Antonio was not simply an illustrator but also a stylist, and designer [and photographer], and therefore his work resists convenient labels or any simplistic art-historical [context]… Had his life not been cut so short by HIV/AIDS, I think he would be much better recognized and indeed he would be right at home in the art, fashion, and social media realms of today.”
Then what about Antonio Lopez, now that we’re reexamining sexual politics and agency, now that we’re humanizing our geniuses, and inclusivity in fashion and art are a subject at the foreground of national discussion? Antonio Lopez 1970 champions the artist—and his one-time romantic partner, lifelong artistic director, and fellow Nuyorican, the unsung Juan Eugene Ramos—as bellwethers of innovating fashion illustration. They are celebrated as radical stylists (Lopez drew by looking at real-life models in real time—“He rendered,” as fashion editor Joan Juliet Buck enunciated); as arbiters of trends and forecasting (Lopez was obsessed with taking suggestive Instamatics, prefacing controversial photo albums such as Madonna’s Sex  and Kim Kardashian West’s Selfish ); as individuals who encouraged the fashion elite to think towards the future and the now by their exaltation of iconoclastic beauty, by their support of youth culture and social uprisings in their late 1960s work, and by their exploration of what we may refer to as pansexuality. And the 1970s, the period which the film names itself after and emphasizes most, was the heyday of their kismet pairing.
The documentary developed as a passion project for Crump, once a rural Indiana youth who could be found admiring Lopez’s work in an issue of Andy Warhol’s Interview. As an adult in 1997, Crump met Paul Caranicas, heir and executor to The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos. He gave Crump unprecedented access to the archives, leading directly to 1970, which, like your average bio-doc, is buttressed by photos, interviews, and vintage clips (though there is scant footage of Lopez himself, even in Caranicas’ vault). Figures present to speak about Lopez and Ramos include Cleveland, Lange, Jane Forth, Donna Jordan, Patti D’Arbanville, writer and former Interview editor Bob Colacello, Grace Coddington, makeup artist Corey Tippin, and most wonderful of all, the late Bill Cunningham, a true national treasure seen here in his last on-camera interview.
The film is interested in the transformative early years of Lopez’s adult life (a general approach that has been heavily favored by nonfiction biopic filmmakers of late—Sara Driver went down a similar road with
The viewing and discussion group is held at Video Underground in Jamaica Plain, and connects women fans of movies who watch films by women, often about women (in which case male protagonists are allowed), in a room of women (cis-, LGBTQ, non-binary) viewers only.