Nike, perhaps earlier than any footwear/athletics company, understood that the sneakers we choose and the clothes we wear are a representation of who we are. For most of us we dress ourselves in a way that reflects the choices we’ve made, couldn’t or didn’t care to make, and hope to make. The Air Max 1 was dressed to tell the world in no uncertain terms about its Air Technology. It was adorned in a stark red wrap, a sanguine call to attention that spoke loudly and clearly saying, ‘I am different, look at me, look IN me’. The risk in releasing a sneaker that your own marketing team didn’t want to stand behind was enormous, but folks like Mark Parker held firmly to their creative dogma. That Nike embraced such a radical notion on such a grand scale and succeeded in cultivating their vision has afforded the Swoosh a seemingly ineffable amount of confidence and street cred. The products they release have a habit of transcending their form and function. Shoes like the AM1 paradoxically instill a sense of both connection and individuality, two states that when combined in a single brain, often spark a cascade of creativity and expression that most of us call art. It’s no surprise therefore that the AM1 has been the inspiration for a host of artists. In celebration of Air Max Day 3.26 we’re profiling ten artists who have used the Air Max and the AM1 as inspiration for their artwork.
Produced by: Dan Hwang
“A high-end art book containing 100 personally designed and illustrated interpretations of the greatest sneaker of all time”. In 2010 long time designer Matt Stevens created a personal museum of all of the Nike’s that he had ever bought. After completion, he took his favorite model, the AM1, and reimagined it in the style or fashion of various designers, illustrators, artists, authors etc. From pancakes, to Lego, to Dr. Suess and seemingly everywhere in-between, Stevens’ pieces are an incredible tribute to the AM1. The project was fully funded through Kickstarter, with 1000 total books produced. The project was displayed at the SoleDXB event in Dubai as well as in the Afew store in Germany. As if all of this wasn’t enough, Stevens, in conjunction with Social Status, designed ten 1 of 1 AM1s (the actual sneakers) that were inspired by his images. These 10 came in custom boxes and were raffled off.
Dave White is, for many sneaker aficionados, the face of sneaker art. His splattered dynamic style of painting makes a pair of sneakers jump and run off the page. In 2005 Nike was celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the anatomically inspired Air Max 95. The folks at Swoosh worked with Dave White on what was dubbed the Nike Wet Paint project. The idea was to design a 3 pack of sneakers that paid tribute to the original Air Max 95 colorway. Dave dressed up the Air Max 1, Air Max 90 and Air Stab in the original black, grey and neon colorways. While the Sir Stab was not released (it would later be released in 2010 as part of the 10th anniversary Size? celebration), the AM1 and AM90 dropped at Size? in London, accompanied by a Tywek jacket, a print of Dave White painting and a box just like the original AM95 box.
Stephanie Morris is a UK based artist who draws portrait style pieces in pencil and colored pencil. Her incredible pictures of sneakers are drawn in a hyper-realistic style that more closely resembles a photograph than a hand-drawn piece of art. Perhaps because of this, Morris does something remarkable on her instagram account (@stephfmorris), posting pictures of partially finished pieces, allowing us to ostensibly take part in her artistic process as we get to quite literally watch our favorite pair of sneakers come to life. While her favorite pair of sneaker is the Nike Cortez, she has drawn several AM1s, including a rendition of the OG colorway that’s phenomenal.
4. Parra Artwork
Pieter Janssen aka Parra has a long and celebrated history with the Air Max 1. Perhaps best known by sneaker collectors for his work on the maroon AM1s, the Dutch artist applied his post-Pop vibrant style to a set of Air Max inspired images for a 2006 piece in Dazed and Confused Magazine entitled, ‘Art and Science’. The article was meant to celebrate, “those technological developments that ushered in a cultural revolution”. Perhaps coolest about the section was the back cover, which was given structure and sported clear windows as part of Parra’s rendition of the Air Max 360.
5. Sergio Hidalgo Paredes aka Sixeart
Barcelona born Sergio Hidalgo Paredes, often known as Sixeart, began his career painting graffiti in the 1980s. He progressed, without any formal training, into the realm of canvas and sculpture, developing a unique style that blends bold colors and geometric shapes into animal-like figures. Sixeart was among six artists selected to paint the outside of the Tate Modern for the incredibly popular Street Art exhibition in 2008. In 2006, he took inspiration from the Air Max series, modeling giant surrealist-style birds after the original colorways of the Air Max series sneakers. The pieces were featured and graced the cover of a Nike Air inspired edition of Rojo magazine.
6. Tim Easley
The London based designer, illustrator and photographer is perhaps best known for his digital interpretations of sneakers. Included in that series is an Air Max 1 edition featuring 42 different colorways in a piece called 8-Bit Sneakers. More recently Easley released a series of five pieces of art representing his favorite Nike sneakers, bringing them to life according to the personalities he believes they have.
Carroll Lynn aka Careaux is a Dutch artist/illustrator whose kaleidoscopic interpretations of iconic sneakers and brands are as clean as they are beautiful. Often using softer more pastel-inclined colorways, her art has generated an impressive following across the globe. Last year for Air Max Day she created several pieces that celebrated the AM1 in its OG colorway, pieces that earlier in the month were displayed at Premium Supply Store in an exhibition entitled “A Decade of Air Max”. With no shortage of grails and must-haves in her collection, be sure to check out her instagram (@careaux) on Air Max Day.
Florian Nagel, better known to many as achildcolor, is a German artist who paints remarkably vivid and realistic watercolor paintings of sneakers. His pieces are primarily of runners, so it’s only natural that the AM1 would be featured prominently across numerous of his paintings. As with Careaux, achildcolor has built his following primarily through his IG account (@achildcolor), where you can stay up to date on his remarkable work.
9. Ghica Popa
Ghica Popa is a Romanian illustrator and graphic artist whose self-described style is, “a surrealist mix between robots, animal inspired characters and strange buildings – influenced by science fiction, movies I watched as a kid, old futuristic cars, comic books and different art movements, from cubism to pop art”. He has applied his unique surrealist, square-space style to sneakers in various projects and exhibitions including commissions for Nike, Sneaker Freaker and Sneaker News. Popa’s Space Sneaker series, a collection of pieces that reimagined his favorite sneakers as space ships piloted by blocky robots, prominently featured the AM1 in both its original colorway as well as the Air Max Day 2014 colorway.
Like several other artists featured, Antony McLoughlin otherwise known as thelimebath, has garnered a large amount of attention through his instagram account (@thelimebath). A proprietor of minimalist designs, his beautifully clean work spans illustration and graphic design. In 2013 he created a series inspired by Air Max which included the Nike Air Max 1 Geometric. His artwork and style have continued to develop and his work has come to incorporate either accessories or a full material breakout of the sneakers, a deconstructionist approach he took to the Patta x Parra AM1s. He has also incorporated the z-axis by displaying fully rendered and rotating images of the sneaker or piece that he has chosen, completely integrating the sneaker into the virtual reality world of the internet.