Shoes 253 by Andy Warhol is a screenprint from the artist’s Shoes series. The portfolio revisits some of his earliest work, reconceptualizing past subject matter through the evolution of his artistic style. The series reflects Warhol’s 1950s commercial work as a fashion illustrator for Glamour, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar, and I. Miller & Sons. Here, Warhol reimagines his shoe designs that predate his artistic notoriety, long before works such as the Marilyns and Campbell’s Soup Cans. Other works from the series include Shoes 257 and Shoes 254.
Warhol bought a box of shoes to use as props in September 1978. “Went out and bought props for drawings (fruit $23.80).
Got a load of 1950s used shoes down on Canal Street for $2 a pair. It’s just the shoes I used to draw, all the Herbert Levine shoes with the creative lasts” (Andy Warhol & Pat Hackett. The Andy Warhol Diaries). He brought the shoes back to his studio, and Ronnie Cutrone scattered them all across the floor. Warhol, taken by the appearance of the scattered shoes, began taking polaroids of the shoes laid out. Warhol continuously rearranged the shoes, similar to how they looked when Cutrone scattered them. He photographed them against white sheets of paper while removing and incorporating his personal collection of shoes into the arrangement.
The Shoes 253 screenprint depicts an assortment of shoes dispersed against a glimmering black background, mimicking the imagery of shoes left carelessly across the floor. The vibrant colored shoes contrasting against the black background further emphasize the colors, drawing attention to the details within the assortment of shoes. Warhol’s inclusion of the diamond dust technique caused the prints to appear enhanced on the surface. He drew this inspiration from diamond dust prints made by artist Rupert Jasen Smith, who Warhol proclaimed as a master printmaker. Unlike Smith, Warhol avoided using industrial-grade ground-up stones to employ the diamond dust effect, viewing the material as too rough to work with. Instead, Warhol used pulverized glass to create the sparkling effect.
Shoes merges Warhol’s interest in commercial commodities, opulence, and excess. Shoes 253, along with the entire Shoe series, captures both the essence of pop culture and fashion at the time. The style of the stiletto heel shoe, featured in the Shoe series, became popularized during the latter half of the 1970s. The relevance of the stiletto silhouette lasted through the 80s up until the start of the 90s. The shoe was symbolic of not only the fashion of the time but the culture too. The shoe captured the tone of glamour, celebrity, and the club scene taking place in Manhattan. With Warhol depicting the shoe in such an opulent and glamorized manner, it only made sense with the influence he held, streamlining movements within the Manhattan club, art, and celebrity scene since the 1960s.