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Artist Bienko touts his modified Louboutins at Neiman Marcus and 4411 Montrose.

Art News: A&M Steps Up!

by Jason Sheeler | Houston magazine | September 16, 2011

College Station isn't exactly known as a breeding ground for high-fashion-inspired art. But the Aggies are stepping up! 

Handsome artist and Texas A&M art professor Joshua Bienko's series of modified Christian Louboutin stilettos is building buzz. As if the signature red soles aren't precious enough, New York native Bienko, 32, painstakingly recreates iconic work from legendary artists—Warhol, Duchamp, Koons, Hirst—onto the soles of the $800-plus shoes. (A&M gave Bienko a grant to help with the cost.) And on Sept. 29, Houstonians can peep his creations at Neiman Marcus during an event hosted by the Houston Tidbits website (houstontidbits.com)—and at a pop-up exhibit of his oil paintings and prints inspired by the shoes, curated by local gallerist Barbara Davis in a new event space at the 4411 Montrose building (713.520.9200) Sept. 30-Oct. 1.

The married father-of-two's work nods to the "appropriation" movement—when artists appropriate previously existing imagery, à la Warhol's soup cans—and to the relationship between "use value and exchange value," as he says. Bienko's pieces ask: Are we more valuable as art, or as heels? "A collector will have to decide between ruining them and hanging them on the wall. If you hate Jeff Koons' work, then wear the shoes."

Although Bienko's striking photographs of the shoes are for sale, the heels themselves are not. Yet. "I want to disappoint viewers," he says, "leave them wanting."