Artist Chris Francis took Assistant Director, Maria Guerrero, through his latest exhibition "Open Floor Plan: Wearable Architecture and Functional Design" discussing his sources of inspiration and methods of execution. These are wood blocks and they are dedicated to Josef Albers he taught at the Bauhaus and he taught at the Black Mountain College and he taught interaction of color. So what it is, is an optical experiment with the eye so the colors, at every point on the shoe it is a different color, but this is the same color as this in here but you can't see it here because those to ends aren't together because there is an optical illusion that happens but this is the the same color as this. Because of these color fields being different it looks as though this is darker but they are the exact same color. Josef Albers was experimenting with that, really cool experiments, but it's really fun to play with. It is based off a traditional Japanese Geta, the tradition actually originated in China and these are functional- you can wear them.
As are these, people have walked around in these and everything. It is hard to walk in but it is actually comfortable I've been told.
Really? Is this a size 7 too?
This is a 7, but it is in a range, it might be an 8. There is no true way to know. It was built off of a 7 last, a shoe form. It is held together in a strange way because I was playing with, the entire idea of this piece was simplicity and furniture design. Seeing if it could be a wearable concept. There is a lot of furniture inspiration here.
The concepts that you would apply to furniture, but applying them to a shoe?
Yes, so the stainless steel was actually bent in a garage in east L.A. We bent it. I found it and went over to my buddy's shop, they make low-riders there, and they helped me out because I paid them off to watch the shop. I am not that tough, so they are cool. So they helped me out and bent it. This took so many prototypes to get this cut it could be held together with just resistance. So the entire shoe is only held together with its own resistance. It becomes an act of architecture. The same principles I used are in buildings and in industrial design. There is a slot that the piece goes in, there is no glue no nails and it is strong enough to completely support someones weight.
Counter strength when you're walking to hold itself together?
And the idea of this also came from the Geta too. The fulcrum when your walking- your toe is forward and it makes a rocking motion, you'll see on a traditional Geta there will be a wood block further back right at the joint line in the foot and that's how you get the momentum to walk. So these are actually functional. Modern chairs for your feet.
I love the idea of applying these concepts that people have mulled over for centuries about one item, say furniture and applying it to the shoe.
I make real shoes. I do make stage performance wear, lots of bands and stuff. I get so board doing it. There is no art in this shoe- I could go buy it at Nordstroms. Theres no real process of interpretation with those. For this, I like to take it out of that and do things that are more for the imagination, more fun. Maybe they could even be funny. What is the potential failure of a device, this is a total fail as a shoe but in some ways it's not because you can walk on glass and its completely structurally sound.
To be continued...