Most art aficionados will recall Andy Warholâ€™s early work as an illustrator, when he made fanciful renderings of 1950s fashion footwear. Recently, Iâ€™ve come to know two artists who focus a considerable amount of time and effort on the art of the shoe. During a recent studio visit, I was treated to a sneak peak of the shoe paintings of artist and hat/clothing designer Yuka Hasegawa [right], as she prepared for her solo show at Gallery Milieu in Tokyo. Her shoe paintings ranged in style from smoky Surrealism to more concrete representations, each having a certain personality in mind for its wearer.
During my last visit to the Rockland Center for the Arts (ROCA) for an artistâ€™s dinner-dance, I was pleased to find a small exhibition in the front room gallery of the work of Ed Radford. Like Hasegawa, Radford gives his shoe designs life through hairy heels, bulbous noses, arching backs, and sniffing postures, while some of his other designs would be totally unrecognizable as shoes if you did not know what they were.
On the main wall, with cartoon clarity, Radford applied cutout wood letters to spell the words Shoe Sale. And true to its meaning, all of the works were offered at one low price of $300 each. There is a â€œSpring Shoeâ€ (2006) which features a strutting form in black and white paint on a piece of plywood. Here the shoe, as is the case with most of Radfordâ€™s works, appears to be moving, or about to move, this time through a field of daisies. â€œShoe (Toenail)â€ (2001) has its own black toenail, while its bending heel indicates a hard dayâ€™s work supporting a heavy owner. One assumes the artist has represented this shoe as it attempts to crawl out of sight to avoid future torture.
Many of the works by Radford have a real throwback, early animation look â€“ black and white, Betty Boop-ish, like the look of that early cartoon of Mickey Mouse in â€œSteamboat Willie.â€ You know, that era of big, black, gas-guzzling cars. â€œShoe (Double Heel)â€ (2002) best illustrates that, showing a shoe that sports a pair of thin heels that strain to hold up a large back end. Such details as the many buttons on the high top, and a round, curved-up toe area like a big car bumper, solidify the early twentieth century references.
My favorite work in the show, â€œShoe (Crinkled)â€ (2002) [at top of page], looked like the beak of Woody Woodpecker after he tries to wood peck a petrified tree, all Z bent (but sans the circling stars indicating a semi-conscious state). The most animated shoe is â€œShoe (Dior)â€ (2002) [left]. Here, we see a shoe, looking more like a sniffing dog than footwear, as it inspects a collaged-on Dior label.
All in all, this is art that makes you smile, while the artistâ€™s appreciation for form as it relates to motion, gravity and expression is quite memorable. â€“ D. Dominick Lombardi
Shoe Sale runs through April 6, 2008
Rockland Center for the Arts
27 South Greenbush Road
West Nyack, NY
Mr. Lombardi is an artist, writer and curator. Shows include The Post Apocalyptic Tattoo: A Ten Year Survey of the Art of D. Dominick Lombardi, curated by Carol Kino at the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center in San Antonio, TX; Deep Pop, curated by Andrew Michael Ford, at Kenneth Chapman Gallery @ Iona College in New Rochelle, NY; Tattoos and Graffoos, curated by John Pollard at ada gallery in Richmond, VA; and The Post Apocalyptic Tattoo: Works by D. Dominick Lombardi at Gallery Milieu in Tokyo, Japan.