Basquiat at the AGO: Separating the art from the art star – The question remains, does the legendary, tragic artist Jean-Michel Basquiat fascinate because of what he made or how he stopped making it?” – The Toronto Star, February 1, 2014
In under a decade, Jean–Michel Basquiat produced a lifetime’s worth of vivid, emotional, funny, original drawings, paintings, mixed media collages, text based art and new ideas. He was there, on the ground, at a time when the New York art world needed a revolution, and he provided one all by himself. Any interrogation of his work 25 years on should be focused on his work and not his death as his legend is only a fraction of what it should yet be. Shall we?
A major article’s lead that Basquiat’s death is one of the more interesting things about him, especially if a follow up which retracts the assumption of “fascination” and goes deeper is not to come, carries a strong whiff of racial, cultural, and confirmation biases. Fortunately, we are now dealing with Post-Modernism, where the very structures and rules of art criticism are forever upset, for the benefit of all amateurs who feel and respond to Basquiat’s musicality, its subversion and its originality. Watch as some experts grasp at the margins as their blessings are no longer required for the next few months in the Toronto art scene. Decide for yourself how it affects you: Step On magazine was thrilled to be at the media preview and we think the AGO show is a triumph for the gallery, Toronto and for our local culture in 2015. Not to mention the many young people who will be inspired to make art by this rare opportunity they have to see this work.
Jean–Michel Basquiat would have seen few heroes of his own to follow the early 80’s landscape, and so was wholly original: spray painting on any surface he felt like, slipping effortlessly with an irresistible grin and a rare youthful beauty into the hungry mouth of the Art world, charming the ultimate Art Star and always-at -heart Ad Man, Andy Warhol and, pop culture figures such as the then-up-and-coming, dangerously effective social engineer Madonna.
Toronto folks can see eighty Basquiat works at the AGO from now until May 10. Take your kids and encourage them to make their own art, outside the lines. Take yourself and go alone, sit on a luxurious leather bench before someone else’s treasures on loan that really belong to the world and just feel it. Take your sweetheart and hold their hand and know that Basquiat laid on these big, impossibly big canvases on the floor of his studio, sketching, writing, painting, smoking, drinking, eating, talking to friends, entertaining collectors and buyers and curators, right where you now stand looking at right where he was living and he said “Huh”. “What the hell?” “I don’t like this” I love this” and all the small questions of the day and moment, and all the big questions of a lifetime, of a millennia, of all humanity, of earth, of abuse, of power, of skin, of money, of all our natural resources, of all the darkness and joy contained in the soul.
You may be amazed, “fascinated”, even, that these works with their decidedly large swatches of blacked over areas and startling darkness will make you laugh with understanding, with recognition, and the joy this feeling creates, something only possible here and now before him. It’s not about death any more than any honest art is about death. It’s not gloomy. It could even be the most alive thing you’ve ever seen. Absolutely death-defying.
Read the plate beside the painting, or read the painting. Both ways work.
MOST OF MY HEROES DON’T APPEAR ON NO STAMPS
“It is most definitely, always, a tragedy when someone dies young, and by young, we mean 27 or 40. It is always a tragedy to lose an artist of any age who has much to say and has barely been heard yet, even as the outward markers of success suggest a phenomenon. It is a terrible loss, forever in the bones and nerves and heart and the brain we understand so little about, to lose someone we love. Someone we barely knew. Someone who changed the shape of the world, the space-time continuum, whether our mother, our friend, or Jean-Michel Basquiat.” READ HERE
BASQUIAT, MADONNA, POP JUNK FOOD, AND ART GOLD
“Basquiat calls her out: copyright, cartoon, junk food, while elsewhere, 2015, super-human, clean-living Madonna goes on and on in the world collecting titles of the ultra –rich and less culturally relevant ex-artists and never was-es: “philanthropist” “record producer” the always entertaining “Business Woman” and the truly frightening “Mogul”. READ HERE
A Basquiat gallery HERE