Shoes 257 is a classic Andy Warhol masterpiece from the 1980 Shoes portfolio. After years of artistic exploration and growth in fields of writing, music, and visual art, Warhol gained a massive following. However, laid in the groundwork of his Shoes series is an homage to his life history before fame. Shoes opens a window into his humble beginnings as a commercial illustrator of footwear during the 1950’s. As a longtime enthusiast of women’s footwear specifically, Shoes 257 is a passion project commemorating Warhol’s pre-celebrity life, dusted in the glamorous lens that he saw when looking at women’s shoes.
Shoes 257 consists of an array of women’s high heel shoes that are pointed upward and placed in an nonlinear line. The print is fairly understated (especially for Warhol), when it comes to color: dark black, rusty orange, gray, and royal blue juxtapose the colorful bright teal shoe in the center, diverging from the black background. Diamond dust softens the non-descript dark background, adding texture and a touch of elegance that glamorizes these already attractive shoes. Shoes 257 is one of the more refined compositions in Shoes, albeit less color driven than works like Shoes 254 and less randomized than Shoes 253. Shoes ultimately resonate with the class and elegance of women’s high heel shoes because of it’s uniform composition and understated forms.
Warhol’s stylistic decision to add darker shoes, like black and rust, on an already black canvas works like the support a shoe offers a lady’s foot; they instead offer support to the main eye-catching colors through juxtaposition and, in turn, brighten them even more. In true Warholian fashion, the composition in Shoes 257 is both bold and complex. The composition draws the eye towards smaller details beyond colors and shape. Some of these details, such as the name “Tony” printed on the inside heel of the royal blue shoe, reflect Warhol’s fascination with mass production and consumerism. Even though this touch separates this shoe from the others, such a detail calls to mind both Warhol’s fascination with advertisement and his origins as a commercial artist.
Aside from Warhol’s self-proclamation as a “business artist,” the series remains personal because he both screen printed his own designs and added diamond dust that can only be tangibly experienced in the hands of this work alone. The 1980’s were one of the boldest and most colorful decades in fashion history, yet Shoes 257 finds a way to antagonize the trendy neons and pastels that were duly customary to mass-produced fashion and his earlier works.
Thirty years after having worked in the fashion industry, Warhol returns to his roots and creates Shoes 257 as a tribute to his past. The series’ modest colors and refined composition allowed Warhol to shine in a new light and trend-set in the next era.