Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) was an American artist. He began as an obscure graffiti artist in New York City in the late 1970s and evolved into an acclaimed Neo-expressionist and Primitivist painter by the 1980s.
“‘Fast Forward’ reveals a complex subject crying out for attention by outlining how the Neo-Expressionists and their ’80s cohort broke painting wide open. Their legacy is a sense of freedom and possibility that infuses the medium to this day.” —Roberta Smith on our new exhibition focusing on 1980s painting form the collection. Read more in The New York Times.
[Left, Kathe Burkhart’s painting “Prick: From the Liz Taylor Series (Suddenly Last Summer),” from 1987, reprises a movie scene with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. Right, “Baron Sinister” from 1986, by Walter Robinson. Photogaph by Jake Naughton for The New York Times]
Basquiat’s art focused on
“suggestive dichotomies”, such as wealth versus poverty, integration
versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience. He appropriated poetry, drawing, and painting, and
married text and image, abstraction, figuration,
and historical information mixed with contemporary critique.
BMW Art Car Number 13: Sandro Chia Prototype 3 Series Touring Racer
“I have created both a picture and a world. Everything that is looked at closely turns into a face. A face is a focus, a focus of life and the world.”
“Paint me, paint me!”, the racing car‟s surface had called out to him, said Sandro Chia. So he started to paint, painted faces and a sea of intensive colours until the car‟s whole bodywork had been completely covered. “The automobile is a much coveted object within our society”, said Sandro Chia commenting on his work. “It is the centre of attraction. People look at it. This car reflects those looks.” The design of the Art Car was not his first artistic involvement with an automobile. Even as a child he painted graffiti on cars.
The renaissance city of Florence, where Sandro Chia was born in 1946, is the world of his childhood and his youth, a world in which he learned to take a playful and relaxed approach towards the fine arts. As early as in the seventies he displayed his work at important individual exhibitions and was soon recognized as one of the most significant artists of the Italian Transavanguardia. He sees himself as a neo-expressionist, his figurative painting revealing signs of having been influenced by Carrà, de Chirico, Picasso as well as Montegna and Giorgione.
I hardly need to introduce Jean-Michel Basquiat. His image has been so sanitized and commercialized, however, that many people identify him as this solitary icon of tortured creativity and 1980s “downtown cool,” rather than an intensely ambitious, earnest, critical man engaged with the world around him and the politics and artmaking of his time. A telling outgrowth of this is that the main artists he’s usually associated with in the popular imagination—Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, the Neo-Expressionists—are white. But Basquiat was extremely critical of the systemic racism and violence that surrounded him in Reagan’s America, and he used his art to lodge critiques and express his own ambivalence as a black artist succeeding in a white-dominated, money-hungry art world. I think about his Famous Negro Athletes series pretty frequently; in a way, the same thing has happened to him that happens to America’s favorite black athletes, from Serena Williams and Lebron James to the latest rash of Olympians capturing the media’s attention: Simone Biles, Simone Manuel, Usain Bolt, and countless others. White America is so desperately unable to talk about race that we sanitize black athletes of their racial identities, the systemic inequalities they have overcome, the real symbolism of their successes, in an effort to promote a faux national unity that can stand in for racial equity (“sports are the great equalizer”…“all athletes matter”). In this absolutely incredible, darkly hilarious drawing, Basquiat’s athletes are reduced to mere masks or unidentifiable stereotypes—a perfect visualization of our culture that will readily co-opt the successes of its marginalized people, as long as they don’t talk about their marginalization.