Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

As a theme shoes have proven to be an irresistible temptation for many artists, architects and designers. The late Andy Warhol started his career as a commercial artist shoes. and it is not uncommon today, to find internationally acclaimed industrial designers working on shoes. Andy Warhol once had an ingrown toenail on his left big toe and to ease his pain wore trainers with soft uppers slashed across the toe box to allow his painful big toe to protrude. In the spirit of a true artist, he wore brilliant chartreuse tights under his brown pants to demonstrate to all, his pain and discomfort. Yet suffered in silence. Artist extraordinaire Andy Warhol was throughout his life fascinated with both feet and shoes.

In the late 40s, his early career as a commercial and advertising artist had him draw shoes for Glamour magazine. He then worked as a designer for shoe manufacturer Israel Miller. Warhol gave each of his shoes a temperament of its own, with vamps that got longer and longer making the drawings of women's shoes impossibly sleek and slim. They were often decorated with flowers and birds, and silhouetted pumps, bejewelled buckles and pencil-thin heels appeared in award-winning advertisements for manufacturer and retailer I Miller & Sons in The New York Times, Unlike many of his contemporaries who used pseudonyms, Warhol brazenly added his name at the bottom of his ads in the quirky scrawl of his mother. He was very proud of being a commercial artist, and continued to illustrate ads until 1966. Focused on his developing art work Warhol refused to attend exhibitions of his earlier shoe drawings from 1947 to 1959.

He developed the "blotted line" technique , using a modified printing process with inked tracing paper to repeat a basic image whilst creating endless variations on the same theme. Shoes became for a time not only his livelihood but a passion. The seeds of Warhol's future as a pop artist were sown during this time. His iconic silkscreen paintings of Marilyn and Elvis in the 1960s were pre-empted a decade earlier by his "blotted-line" technique of shoes.

In 1955, while still working as a commercial artist for shoe company I. Miller, he published a portfolio of seventeen shoe drawings with accompanying text written by poet, Ralph Pomeroy (1926-1999). Each of the sixteen images in this portfolio featured a shoe centrally placed on the page accompanied by a simple line of text, a verbal-visual composition mimicking the picture and ad copy of advertisements. The drawings were of flat and brightly hand coloured women’s shoes in cerise, turquoise, shocking pink. Pale green, pale blue and orange. The accompanying aphorisms and quotations were reworded by Mrs Julia Warhola, the artist’s mother, and written in her distinctive, decorative script. Warhol and his friends hand-colored the sheets at coloring parties. The portfolio was titled a la Recherché du shoe perdue, a riff on Marcel Prousts famous novel 'À la recherche du temps perdu' (In Search of Lost Time, or Remembrance of Things Past).

About the same time Warhol started making three-dimensional shoe sculptures They were always shoes of fancy and included shoe lasts with high heels. He decorated them in a similar fashion to his drawings using gold and silver leaf and painting motifs in the manner of the blotted line technique employed in his two-dimensional work. The sculptures were rarely exhibited but he did exhibit at the Golden Slipper Show at the Bodley Gallery in NY in 1956. Exhibits included large blotted-line drawings of shoes painted gold, or decorated with gold metal and foil. The show was followed by a two-page colour spread of the Crazy Golden Slippers in Life magazine.

He gave each shoe a name: Elvis Presley (above), James Dean, Mae West, Truman Capote and Julie Andrews, among others, were given shoes that mirrored their characters. The art critics at the time ignored by the established the exhibition and when Warhol offered galleries his work , they refused.

Andy Warhol also enjoyed drawing feet and encouraged his friends, potential lovers, art dealers, and celebrities, to pose as foot models at his studio in New York City. He filled a complete sketch book (unpublished) with lithe sketches of soles, toes and arches, sometimes perched alongside soup cans, crabs or crumpled dollar bills. He even had a smouldering cigar caught between two toes.

He moved away from commercial art in the early 1960s, as the Pop Art movement emerged as a reaction against the seriousness of Abstract Expressionism. Pop artists used common images to express abstract formal relationships. Warhol like others, attempted to fuse elements of popular and high culture and to erase the boundaries between the two. Shoes became one of its emblems because they represented status and consumerism. In 1969, the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) invited Andy Warhol to curate an exhibition entitled Raid the Icebox with Andy Warhol. it featured works he selected from the museum’s permanent collection and featured an eclectic mix of objects in the archives (and rarely seen). Warhol liked the cabinets of shoes in storage and each of the 193 pairs were catalogued and displayed them exactly as they were stored. He also chose baskets, Navajo blankets, paintings, ceramics and costume accessories. Raid the Icebox opened in Houston at Rice University’s Institute for the Arts, then later in 1970, the show moved to the Isaac Delgado Museum in New Orleans. At the Delgado opening, visitors entered the museum through basement storage, with a hot-dog vendor from off the streets serving refreshments. The Delgado also added a functioning vintage jukebox to its installation and suspended a spinning, mirrored globe from the ceiling. Raid the Icebox I became a landmark exhibition.

He continued to produce shoe pictures sporadically e.g. the diamond dust pictures of 1980. Andy Warhol placed glittering, multi-coloured arrangements of women’s shoes against black backgrounds. The idea came from fellow artist, Rupert Smith, who had been using industrial-grade ground-up stones on some prints of his own. Andy saw the potential when he witnessed a box of shoes being turned upside down and dumped on the floor. The artist implemented his signature style of repetition, arranging the shoes in a seemingly haphazard, yet methodical manner to showcase classic high-heels.

Andy Warhol became a hoarder collector and amassed 400,000 objects from restaurant bills, newspaper clippings, unpaid invoices, pornographic pulp novels, airline tickets, supermarket flyers, postage stamps, to Chubby Checker LPs he was compulsive. Many of the items were stored in 610 cardboard boxes, which he referred to as time capsules. Some boxes contained women's shoes, but the weirdest discovery was in capsule No 36, a white gift box wrapped with tissue paper there was a disembodied human foot of unknown origin, it was badly mummified and almost been reduced to dust.

(Video Courtesy: TheSecondComing1789 by Youtube Channel)

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