Art’s “age of appropriation” arguably began more than a century ago with Picasso‘s collage compositions, the concept transitioning into facsimile renditions by Andy Warhol‘s post-War lifetime before mutating into more post-impressionist realms, such as Franck “Invader” Salma‘s mosaic depictions of 8-bit creations. By the turn of the millennium, the idea of fine-art mashups found footing, like visual versions of the hybridized hit “Walk This Way” by Run-DMC and Aerosmith, artists splicing distinctly different cultural reference points into stand-alone works. Among these dwells Bill McMullen‘s SuperStar Destroyer, his mingling of a space-age vehicle with iconic sneaker aesthetics first appearing on the cusp of this evolution.

Bill McMullen’s SuperStar Destroyer

“I have been mashing sneakers into things for a while,” McMullen admits, potentially referencing his ShuttleMax or AD-AT designs (learn more here), both of which debuted as illustrations in the late-’90s before being reimagined as vinyl sculptures several years later. Forming two-thirds of a thematically connected trilogy, these have been joined by the SuperStar Destroyer, which was “the first idea in this series,” the artist adds. Initially released as SwishNYC‘s “Old School” t-shirt graphic alongside a “New School” counterpart, the idea resurfaced at DesignerCon in 2015 as a limited edition print from MunkyKing, who revealed a prototype of their vinyl production edition one year later.

Roughly “twenty years after I formed the idea,” notes McMullen, the sculptural rendition of the SuperStar Destroyer was aptly issued on this year’s Star Wars Day, May the 4th. Depicting the vague profile of a dagger-shaped warship from the Star Wars franchise, McMullen’s creation is a beautifully minimal approach that approximates the “lack of detail that occurs when you’re seeing something from quite far away,” he explains. Imagined as “desktop-sized versions of enormous vehicles,” McMullen continues, “[they] can’t work for me visually if they don’t have that pared-down detail, the simplified essence of what the object is, seen from a distance.”
“There’s also the absolute simplicity of the colors,” McMullen remarks regarding the elegant detailing, which eludes to Adidas’ Superstar sneakers. Better known by fans as the “shelltoe” design, the artist explains how the “fat-laced shelltoe was shorthand for hip-hop,” how every element of its design reminded him of the musical genre he loved. Embodied across the sculptural form in everything from the off-white shell top at its tip to the stitching marks upon its mid-section, all unencumbered by unnecessary decorations, this restrained and mature direction grants prominence to every aspect that is present on McMullen’s piece.
“Of course, all of this is subjective, but the shelltoe,” McMullen states, “has been an institution to me since I saw it pulled out of a sports context and presented as part of Run-DMC’s uniform, specifically in the ‘Walk This Way’ video.” Though it had been part of the trio from Queens’ signature look previously, the “shot of their feet walking down the stairs [in the ‘Walk This Way’ music video],” the artist adds, “just cemented it for me as what that shoe means.” Musing on that groundbreaking musical collaboration further, McMullen’s that his creation’s “other half, the sci-fi half, well, that’s the ‘Aerosmith’ riff, the tough classic that mixes well with the nicked drum loop.” Blending to form the SuperStar Destroyer, this design’s 400 piece vinyl edition has “been a long time coming,” recognizes McMullen, “and I hope people can keep that context in mind, that this is one of the earlier examples of this culture despite being a 2019 release.”

Click Here to Acquire Bill McMullen’s SuperStar Destroyer.

For more information on Bill McMullen:
website | podcast | instagram

64 Colors' Good 4 Nothing Dunny from Kidrobot
Eluding to the diverse palette within a box of crayons, a potential starting point for the journey of most modern artists, the aptly aliased 64 Colors duo are the husband-and-wife team of Eric and Laura. Traveling a route within the art toy movement for over a decade, included in their…
Sket-One's Jinro Dunny from HiteJinro & Kidrobot
Though Roy Lichtenstein began transforming comic panels from their lowbrow origins to dot-decorated canvases the year before, it is probably Andy Warhol's first solo exhibition of paintings in 1962 that is best known for elevating the mundane to the gallery-worthy. Displayed at Los Angeles' Ferus Gallery from July 9th to…
64 Colors' Good 4 Nothing Dunny
Sket-One's Jinro Dunny
tagged in Bill McMullen