The catalogue brings together about 170 paintings and drawings, and a vast array of photographic documentation, examining the work of BasquiatRead more
This is a large monograph, in an impressive format, that brings together about one hundred and seventy paintings and drawings, and a vast array of photographic documentation, examining the work of Basquiat (New York, 1960-1988) and the context in which his art was inspired and developed: New York in the 1980s.
The Jean-Michel Basquiat Show is the catalogue to one of the largest retrospectives ever dedicated to this great American artist. It traces the brief but intense artistic activity of this leading symbolic figure in the New York art scene during the 1980s, and who is also one of the most popular artists of our time. Even today, almost twenty years from his death in August 1988 as a young twenty-eight year old, his works and his language continue to captivate the public throughout the world.
Basquiat’s art took shape over only one decade, between 1978 and 1988. In this brief period his feverish activity led him to produce a vast core of highly individual works that made him one of the great recorders of his time.
The works selected enable a deeper exploration of some of the themes that interested the artist, including: the recurring use of the word, which began with his activities as a unique graffiti artist, when he used to sign his aphorisms and brief poems on the walls of down town New York with “SAMO”, which drew the interest of the art critic Cy Twombly; the strong tie with the world of music; deep Afro-American roots; a continuous search for an identity in his many self-portraits that reveal fragility and ambition, a desire for acknowledgement and great fame; the artistic scene from the 1980s and the deep friendship with Andy Warhol.
Basquiat’s works enable us to become a part of a world oscillating between childhood and the loss of innocence, to enjoy the vital force that animates gesture and the use of colour, and to understand, at the same time, the fear and suffering contained in signs, words and forms that implode, causing explosions and self-destruction. Basquiat used simple materials to express all this, materials he had used ever since his first experiences in street art, and which he brought to his works inspired by Dubuffet’s use of different materials; he forged a deep connection with the street world, a bridge between that ‘rejected’ life which as a black middle class youth he had deliberately sought out, and the new life of fame and ease which his art and market forces had led him to.
The publication contains critical contributions by the curator Gianni Mercurio (Il Re della luna), Glenn O’Brien, a journalist and expert in the music-art scene of the 1980s (Basquiat e il jazz e Amici di Basquiat), Annette Lagler, curator of the Ludwig Forum of Aachen (Jean-Michel Basquiat. Tre dipinti dalla Collezione Ludwig), Demetrio Paparoni, art critic and writer (Basquiat, il teschio e la maschera da guerra). There is a catalogue of the artist’s works, divided into paintings and works on paper. A special section is dedicated to the film “Downtown ’81”, produced by Maripol and directed by Edo Bertoglio in which Basquiat played himself and produced the music. The film tells the story of a day in the life of an underground New Yorker, documenting the cultural and creative effervescence of New York in the 1980s. The publication also contains a biography (curated by Gaia Regazzoni), a list of solo shows and main group shows, and a bibliography.
Milan, La Triennale Foundation
19 September 2006 - 28 January 2007