EXHIBITION FROM SEPTEMBER 23rd UNTIL NOVEMBER 26th
Shoe is Nice
Living an ocean and continent away I personally don’t know anyone that lives in Nice. Until one day earlier this year dear friend Shoe takes up temporary residence there. For a month or two in late spring we speak almost daily –me with my first cup of coffee and he with his first glass of wine– as we edit a book on his work spanning over 35 years of masterful artistry, that all started when as a precocious teen he called himself Shoe. A few days later, as the book has gone to the printer, on a quiet afternoon in sunny California, a blazing headline screams “Over 80 people massacred in Nice on Bastille Day,” and for a brief moment I am overcome by the suffocating thought that Murphy’s Law is such a motherfucker that the one person I know in Nice could be …
Shoe is My Middle Name, written paintings and painted words is the name of the book, out October 2016. A remarkable array of original minds lend their insight into the man and his living legend, as well as the artist himself with a personal, poetic and philosophical inquiry into his art, and the nature of art itself. In no particular order the book walks through a lifetime of art production relevant to our times, work that from graffiti to nightlife gave face and form to international youth culture in the eighties and nineties; to brands and new media in the oughts, and global urban street art in our current times, where Shoe jumpstarted a global movement with Calligraffiti, to walk away from it and now operate under the mantle of Abstract Vandalism.
In his contribution, New York culture critic and curator Carlo McCormick states: “We all learn to read pictures at an early age, and we do so even more readily when words are attached, but Shoe’s’ language is not in the didactic service of truth so much as in the abiding spirit of a greater mystery. This is an incantation of the unknown, the incarnation of the unknowable. Shoe is not about making sense but about creating sensibility.”
Li Edelkoort, Paris-based international trend forecaster, renown anticipator of our future, writes: “Looking and acting like an older cupid, Shoe aims to reach out to different audiences with several arrows on his bow; on the one hand, his instant calligraffiti speaks to attention-deficit audiences used to a constant flow of information and in need of entertainment, while on the other hand his newer, cooler, calmer and reflective canvases deliver repose and concentration in a chaotic art world.”
Language, signs and the forms of letters, Shoe explains, are derived from nature. It connects him across 5,000 years with a calligrapher named Tsang Chieh, the legendary inventor of Chinese writing, who observed with a keen eye the footprints of birds and animals left in the sand, the shadows tree branches cast by the moon, and translated those forms into a system of symbolic drawings, representing ideas and objects, and a script that would grow to transfer a certain meaning to the viewer of the pictogram, the viewer who would soon come to be known as the reader. Shoe takes a reversed route, where he wants the reader to view again.
Not one to rest on his laurels bestowed upon him in a stellar career, Shoe would rather grab those laurels to test their dexterity as a brush to apply paint with. All he knows is getting up. His quest to master abstract painting constantly leads him to new matter to explore. Enter Graffoliage, the latest Instagram hashtag to corral his consummate artistic production, yet also signifying a move away from skills he excels at and is revered for. From graffiti to graphic design to calligraphy to calligraffiti to abstract vandalism to now an extended period of uncertain exploration into grasping the burst of life photosynthetic matter contains within itself and the forms it leads to, as well as the outside influences that influence it, the Uncontrolled Substances, the name of a another series of works.
“Every visit to his studio,” writes art consultant Manuela Klerkx, “I am surprised to see so much creativity that seems to come forth from a personal quest to get to the essence of painting. A path that leads further and further away from the graphic and decorative aspects of his earlier work, and that with every new work bring him closer to a new formal language. With the same drive and physical and mental challenges that a pilgrim faced, Shoe seems to be searching for an almost sacred destination, that of the perfect paint stroke that makes all others redundant… ”
Dr. Peter Gilderdale, PhD, a calligrapher of note from New Zealand, concludes in his essay Full Circle: “If graffiti has always, on a certain level, been about making oneself heard, then Shoe’s rhythmic pieces are less the musical analogue of the Baroque, than they are of Philip Glass meeting electronic dance music. Artists from Kandinsky through Jackson Pollock have played with this synesthetic overlap of sound and vision, and Shoe’s pieces similarly juxtapose multiple fields and connect multiple spheres of practice. Here gesture, culture and concept coalesce in a complex contemporary mix that signal it as art for today.”
The works on view in Nissa la Bella for GCA Gallery show the newly liberated Shoe, freed from the desire to please large audiences, yet an open invitation to understand the new pathways his considerable talent, undeterred dedication and formidable skills are forging toward what former New York Times art director Steven Heller, calls “something even more impressive. They are not just portraits of calligraphic formations, they are like interstellar formulations. The letters are galaxies made up of strokes and textures, but they are stars of an altogether recomposed universe with alphabetic reminders, but are, shall we say, beings all their own.” Nice is beautiful, and Shoe adds the secret ingredient of a simple breath of life to it to create more than its sum total.