Friday, February 04, 2011

Paintings: Jean-Michel Basquiat

Six Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1987) chalkboard-style paintings, under the title Tuxedo, from the Paris Review's Spring 1983, No. 87 issue. When I recently came across these images, I wondered if I, during my final year of high school and first year in college, might have seen them when they first appeared, and realized that although I would scour magazines and journals like The Paris Review in search of--I don't know what? Something I hadn't seen before? Something important and adult and considered important and adult? And even carried ariound photocopies of poems, stories and interviews I found in its pages, I did not see them.  Or perhaps I could not see them--yet. It would be a few year later, while in college, that I became aware of the young black painter that people were calling a genius; who was appearing in the New York Times with Andy Warhol; whose work represented an apotheosis of the then-still-condemned and ubiquitous popular, public genre known as graffiti (art). The Radiant Man was still blazing brightly.

I love the simplicity of these works, how they present Basquiat's mature style in distilled form. They suggest the simplicity of someone sketching, chalk or spraypaint can in hand, but their compositional density and complexity shows how thoroughly Basquiat's mind (and genius), his networks of reference and relation, were at work.  Please click on the images to see them at full size and also to see all six.

Also in this issue and accessible online: interviews with Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Heinrich Böll. Enjoy.

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