Basquiat at Gagosian Gallery
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s comical, vigorous, and tortured spirit reigns at the Gagosian Gallery. The artwork spans Basquiat’s brief but remarkable career, featuring over fifty works from public and private collections and producing an exhibition that simulates an emotional roller coaster.
Rousing highs are found in works such as “Eyes and Eggs,” made on a large white painter’s drop cloth with sneaker prints on it. Pictured is a black line-cook in a white cap with the name “Joe” written on his white shirt. Joe holds a frying pan containing a pair of red steaming, sunny-side up eggs whose yolks mirror his crazed goggle eyes.
There are dark plummeting lows found in works like “Riding with Death,” painted in 1988, Basquiat’s last year of life. Moments of fear and rage are experienced in “Untitled (Two Heads on Gold).” Painted in teal, gold, black and white on a canvas over 10 feet wide, this image depicts a double portrait of a reoccurring funny but scary figure of a skeletal black man with dreadlocks, hollow eyes, sneering teeth and lanky limbs. According to Ken Johnson of the New York Times, Basquiat was responding to “…the tragically absurd calamity of racism in America” (2013). The discrimination prevented him from becoming all that he wanted and is ultimately what drove him insane. Johnson states Basquiat worked rapidly with brushes, spray paint, markers, and other implements on found boards, stretched fabrics, wooden doors, and professionally stretched canvases, conjuring an artistic persona who mumbles and chortles to himself as he compulsively improvises his chart like compositions of cartoon images, glyphic signs and enigmatic word lists. Bringing viewers along for the ride, Gagosian pays perfect homage to Basquiat’s brilliant madness.
“Eyes and Eggs” courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
“Riding with Death” courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
“Untitled (Two Heads on Gold)” courtesy of Gagosian Gallery