Jean Michel Basquiat: The arty event of the Fall.
#PARIS The black angel of contemporary art from the 80’s in majesty to the Louis Vuitton Foundation, which has dedicated an exhibition to him in recent days of more than 120 of his works. An unmistakable retrospective in parallel with another exhibition by another exceptional artist Egon Schiele who, like Basquiat, died prematurely at the age of 28.
The last major exhibition devoted to Jean-Michel Basquiat in Paris was the retrospective organized at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011. This means that the event was awaited, by those who have not yet seen it and by its aficionados. An opportunity to immerse yourself in his dazzling energy, his energy but also his cracks and rediscover his incredible pictorial alchemy and chromatic vitality;
From his beginnings as a street artist in the streets of Manhattan to his collaborations with Pop Art pope Andy Warhol, to his latest works, including Riding with Death (1988), the exhibition on the four levels of the Louis Vuitton Foundation begins with the three great Heads (dated 81, 82, 83), gathered for the first time. It continues with short chapters that provide a better understanding of the constituent elements of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work, while following a chronological path with more than one hundred and twenty works presented, many of them unpublished in the eyes of the public.
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work is divided into five major phases. The first one began in 1976, when he met his friends, Al Diaz and Shannon Dawson with whom he began to graffiti the streets ofManhattan messages under the pseudonym SAMO©. It ends in autumn 1981, when the gallery owner Annina Nosei made the basement of her gallery, transformed into a studio, available to her and allowed her to paint her first paintings, which were marked by the spontaneity and speed that already characterized her graffiti. Influenced by musicians; John Cage, by his invitation to integrate chance and unpredictability, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis by their keen sense of improvisation, African sounds by their energy and rhythms and hip-hop for his artistic processes of sampling and scratching. Basquiat gives free rein to all kinds of associations made of words, signs, pictograms and concepts that he integrates into his works. These elements will constitute his entire work and make it his signature.
The second phase of his creation, between 1981 and 1982, was mainly dominated by painting on canvas. Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump (1982) and Untitled (1981) are striking examples of this period. Painting takes an increasing place for Basquiat without him interrupting the drawing, by associating on his acrylic and pastel greasy canvases in increasingly intense colors. We also observe an expansion of his figurative repertoire and his corpus of symbolic elements. Basquiat then began to superimpose layers of paintings, pictorial elements and words to make them disappear immediately. This alternation between transparency and disappearance then determines his creative process: he paints, entirely or partially, on his compositions, allowing the spectator to discern the representation of origin.
Frenetic years then began for Basquiat with an extremely important production of works. It is during this period (1982-1985) that he developed what is the third phase of his work. Without neglecting the canvas, Basquiat uses raw materials as a support. He gave up the classic frames to stretch his canvases on wooden pallets or practiced door or shutter assemblies (Portrait of the Artist as a Young Derelict, 1982), sometimes giving rise to a kind of canvas and wood sculpture. The shape of the triptych that Basquiat used in a series of works from 1982 and 1983, allows him, by mounting several canvases mounted on wood, to widen his pictorial field as for example with Horn-Players (1983). He thus continues his pictorial “hip hop” by associating the most diverse words, signs, pictograms and pictorial elements. The three-pointed crown frequently appears, for example in Untitled (1982), parallel to the crown of thorns, these two motifs taking on the value of icons in Basquiat’s work. In the spring of 1983, his works reached their supreme complexity, both through their pictorial themes and through the artistic strategies that Basquiat now associates and transforms with infinite diversity. Changes, denials or physical attacks against the medium and against the work in the form of reworking, destruction and recomposition are part of Basquiat’s artistic method. It also highlights words, by their very disappearance. In Italian (1983) are a striking example. “I cross out the words so you can see them better. The fact that they’re half erased makes you want to read them.” Jean-Michel Basquiat
During this period, 1983 also marked the beginning of a collaboration and a great friendship with Andy Warhol. During this fourth phase of creation, which began intensively in 1984, he took up old collages and made a form of sampling using the silkscreen printing process at Warhol’s initiative. First, he carries out about fifteen collective works with Warhol and Francesco Clemente. In 1984/1985, about a hundred new works followed in cooperation with Warhol, representing one tenth of Basquiat’s pictorial production
The years 1986 to 1988 were the fifth and final phase of this artist’s creation. He then developed a new type of representation: his figurative characters became less important in favour of a considerable expansion of his repertoire of symbols and contents. The works of this period are characterized by an alternation between a radical void and abundance. These drawings and paintings are entirely covered with glued papers, saturated with a profusion of details, signs, pictograms, words and sentences, the ramifications of which evoke the endless trees and associations of the web today. Basquiat also created a series of important large-format drawings, which reveal the artist’s fascination with death. Riding with Death (1988) became the icon of his own death, and resonates as a premonition participating in the myth of this major artist of the second half of the 20th century.
Basquiat’s work owes its originality and singularity to a form of appropriation of everyday life, the street and encyclopedias, and the random. He deliberately copies elements of the reality around him, introduces chance as an artistic strategy and transforms pre-existing aesthetic material into personal aesthetics. Jean-Michel Basquiat was both a precursor of the knowledge society and the cut and paste generation, thus anticipating the use of new media, the society of selfie and globalization while exploring its black identity.
“I use the Black as the main protagonist in all my paintings. Blacks are never portrayed in a realistic way, not even in modern art, and I am happy to do so.” Jean Michel Basquiat
Basquiat’s pictorial compositions reflect the intensity and energy that marked his brief existence. In just eight years, he created a large-scale work, comprising a thousand paintings and more than two thousand drawings. In this way, at a time when conceptual art and Minimal art were dominant, he managed to impose new figurative and expressive elements. His works, populated by characters who seem to have come from comic strips, skeletal silhouettes, bizarre everyday objects and poetic slogans, are striking in their strength and the sumptuousness of their colours. Combining motifs from pop culture and cultural history – especially the world of music and sport – as well as political and social themes, social injustice and racism.
The exhibition is remarkable for the quality of the works presented and above all their rarity in the eyes of the general public. It provides an overview of the work of one of the major artists of the second half of the 20th century.
Jean Michel Basquiat – 1960-1988
From October 3, 2018 to January 14, 2019
Louis Vuitton Foundation
8, avenue du Mahatma Gandhi
Bois de Boulogne
every day from 9am to 9pm
Egon Schiele – 1890-1918
From October 3, 2018 to January 14, 2019
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