I don't think about art while I work. I try to think about life.
Gagosian Gallery is pleased to announce the first exhibition in Hong Kong of paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat. An acclaimed exhibition at Gagosian New York earlier this year drew tens of thousands of visitors, attesting to Basquiat’s acute relevance twenty-five years after his untimely death.
Born to a Haitian father and a Puerto-Rican mother, Basquiat left his family home in Brooklyn, New York at the age of fifteen and took to the streets. A voracious autodidact, he quickly became a denizen of the explosive and decadent New York underground scene—a noise musician who loved jazz, and a street poet who scrawled his sophisticated aphorisms in Magic Marker across the walls of downtown Manhattan, copyrighting them under the name SAMO. In 1981, he killed off this alter ego and began painting and drawing, first on salvaged materials then later on canvas and paper, and making bricolage with materials scavenged from the urban environment. From the outset he worked compulsively; his passion for words and music, his intense yet fluid energy, and the heterogeneous materials that he employed so freely imbued his work with urgency and excitement. He sold his first painting in 1981, and by 1982, spurred by the Neo-Expressionist art boom, his work was in great demand. In 1985, he was featured on the cover of The New York Times Magazine in connection with an article on the newly exuberant international art market. In that photograph, Basquiat is a vision of cool, sprawled in a chair in an elegant three-piece suit and tie, with bunched dreadlocks and bare feet, in front of a large, bold painting—a supernova in the making.
Charismatic image aside, Basquiat was a prodigious young talent, fusing drawing and painting with history and poetry to produce an unprecedented artistic language and content that bridged cultures and enunciated alternative histories. Combining materials and techniques with uninhibited yet knowing and precise intent, his paintings maintain a powerful tension between opposing aesthetic forces—expression and knowledge, control and spontaneity, savagery and wit, urbanity and primitivism—while providing acerbic commentary on the harsh realities of race, culture, and society.
In explosively colored compositions, forceful, schematic figures and menacing mask-like faces are inscribed against fields jostling with images, signs, and symbols. The Thinker (1986), a wry, unsettled riposte perhaps to Rodin's famous subject, depicts a strange, zombie-like figure surrounded by forms evoking clouds, birds, and musical instruments. The canvas appears to have been primed and used as a drawing board for this ambiguous imagery then mostly blacked-out, leaving few windows onto the subject's thoughts. Whether the blank white space near the top of the composition represents a future idea, mental clarity, or the sub-conscious is left to speculation. A double-portrait incorporating tribal markings, and strong, dark reds and blues, and an afflictive, red-eyed self-portrait with delicate graphic detailing painted in 1984, are further examples of this charged shorthand approach, which Basquiat continued to develop and diversify until his tragic premature death in 1988 at the age of twenty-seven—doubtlessly spurred by the alienating effects of fame and addiction.
Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in New York City in 1960, where he died in 1988. Major exhibitions include “Jean-Michel Basquiat: Paintings 1981–1984,” Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (1984; traveled to Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, through 1985); Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover (1987, 1989); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1993; traveled to Menil Collection, Houston; Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; and Montgomery Museum of Fine Art, Alabama, through 1994); “Basquiat,” Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York (2005; traveled to Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, through 2006); and Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland (2010; traveled to Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris). Basquiat starred in “Downtown 81,” a verité movie that was written by Glenn O’Brien, shot by Edo Bertoglio, and produced by Maripol in 1981, but not released until 2000.
尚-米榭‧巴斯奇亞 1960於生於紐約市，1988年在當地身故。他的主要展覽包括愛丁堡 Fruitmarket Gallery舉辦的「Jean-Michel Basquiat: Paintings 1981–1984」(1984年，其後 轉至倫敦當代藝術學院(Institute of Contemporary Arts)，再於鹿特丹 Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen 巡展至1985年)；漢諾威凱斯特納協會畫廊 (Kestnergesellschaft) (1987年及1989年)；紐約惠特尼美國藝術博物館(Whitney Museum of American Art) (1993年，其後轉至休斯頓梅尼爾收藏博物館(Menil Collection)、愛荷華州狄蒙藝術中心 (Des Moines Art Center)及阿拉巴馬州蒙哥馬利美術館(Montgomery Museum of Fine Art) 巡展至1994年)；紐約布魯克林美術館舉辦的「Basquiat」 (2005年，其後轉至洛杉磯 當代美術館(Museum of Contemporary Art)及休斯頓美術館(Museum of Fine Arts)巡展 至2006年)；瑞士巴塞爾貝樂基金會(Fondation Beyeler) (2010年，並巡展至巴黎現代藝術 博物館(Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris))；以及紐約高古軒畫廊(2013年)。 巴斯奇亞曾演出紀實電影《Downtown 81》，該片由Glenn O’Brien編劇，由Edo Bertoglio 攝像，由Maripol監製，雖然於1981年拍攝，但直至2000年才首映。
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Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2019
The Spring 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Red Pot with Lute Player #2 by Jonas Wood on its cover.
Jean-Michel in Black and White
Fred Hoffman looks back on the creation of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Tuxedo (1983), examining the work’s significance in relation to identity and the hip-hop culture of the 1980s.
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (L.A. Painting) (1982) was a game changer. Text by Derek Blasberg.