An important painting from Warhol's series of Black & White late paintings, Beatle Boots resonates beyond the canvas to the world of his early iconography culled from advertising, popular music, celebrity culture and the glut of commodities and advertising. An extraordinary example of Warhol's reimagining of his early works, most notably, the Ad paintings from 1960-61, the loose, seemingly hand-rendered presentation in the present work reflects its vernacular origin in fads. Form and content are reinforced by the sense of humble, hand-drawn advertisement and evokes an earlier time when the ephemeral crazes for boots in the style of the Beatles were all the rage. Beatle Fans-boots are here! screams out in calligraphic bravado; Cuban heels at a time, twenty years on, when such a style was certainly outré. Executed in his trademark style, this work and the series of which it is a part, is lifted from newspaper advertisements and street leaflets from bygone days, recalling the time when he experimented with the unsigned 'commercial motif as ready-made imagery" (C. Stucky, 'Heaven and Hell are Just One Breath Away: Late Paintings and Related Works, 1984-86, p. 9-10). Warhol also extends here his series of Reversals from 1979, in which he reversed areas of white and black when transferring images to canvas. (Ibid., p. 24).
Shoes, the skin of popular culture, appear in many guises in this series-as the latest everyday sneaker (Puma Invader), as the simulated fashion of war, (Paratrooper Boots, 'styled afterby famous paratroopers"), or the banal uniform of blue-collar worker (Work Boots)-and were significant among the subjects Warhol chose since his early days as a commercial artist. His drawings for I. Miller, wildly imaginative renderings of women's shoes, came alive again in the 1980s with 'Diamond Dust Shoes," a multicoloured arrangement of women's shoes on a black ground, originally intended to be embedded with diamond dust, but finally with pulverized glass.
Warhol's seeming ironic detachment from society is belied by of his late Black and White paintings. Warhol here invests his subjectivity in these pictures, a sense of self-determination within and an opposition toward the commodity culture which had in his view overtaken society (B. Buchloh, Notes on an Interview with Andy Warhol, New York, 2002, p. 21). The painting Beatle Boots is authentic in terms of Warhol's penetrating social and political critique, and while poignant in its banality, it is compelling in its newness, an example of Warhol ability to 'know how to do something with [his] art" (ibid., p. 42). And that "something" relates to Warhol's interest at the time in the turn to figurative art and the interest in handwork, the antithesis of his early emblematic work. Beatle Boots comes alive in this context, a restatement of prior techniques within an extension of the artist's own subjectivity and overarching social awareness.