précis: text reformed for two minute presentation:
It is apparent that the emergence of text, as defacto in a Conceptual Art marketplace, has evolved with each new decade since the 60’s alongside the dematerialisation of the object as art. (Lippard, 1997). I was struck by the very different approaches to sharing a biographical documentary, the manner of its inclusion, its impact and the influence of new technologies.
On a visceral level textual deployment seems to offer a very direct comment on the social structure and temperament of any particular artist beyond their message, politics or push for change outside the establishment.
For Basquiat the anonymity of a street artist transitions to acceptance by the Cannon in the 1980’s. Basquiat choreographed a rise to superstar status using his art-work as a structure to both project and protect his persona:
The materiality of his works is conveyed through his observational texts as much as through his naïve approach to drawing and the utility of colour. Using the everyday references of life in a modern America he incorporates elements of his Afro/Caribbean heritage, but I also take from the works comment on a present-day social and cultural situation as a child of mixed race. This social story became woven, not only into his artwork but also into his biography, changing emphasis with the requirement of the interviewer.
His public persona mostly playing down the fact that he was highly educated and highly intelligent. His practice instead emphasising that he was not a conformist, he chose to project a script to reflect a streetwise image of himself. Despite this, in one interview he makes reference to how well he can draw, and for me, it flags up the point that this is not an outsider art practice, this comment alone places his work in the conceptual realm.
It is difficult to separate the work from the artist’s projected persona because the work so fully embodies this projection. A raw version of himself, yet his texts reflect a structured mind against a chaotic exposition in his figurative works. To me, they represent a thinking man who created an artist; at a time when the art market was hungry for a rebel.
It is interesting to examine Basquiat’s work closely as, specifically, it embodies a dialogue which conveys his experience of his practice. Examining his artworks, we can observe the strategic deployment of masking and layering. Seemingly playful his figurative approach could be enjoyed for its pure energy on a literal level. However, a deeper reflection on the iconography he deploys makes a connection to his political and cultural values and acts as a direct mouthpiece.
The simplicity of the obscure and enigmatic annotations could physically draw the reader in, inviting them to consider the scale of his work both as a topical commentary and a perceptual experience of close proximity in order to read the texts. Thus, the presence of the painting draws on the base and immediate presence of the artists’ involvement in creating the works through their scale and textural qualities and the resonance of the texts.
The imagery creates a personal narrative for Basquiat, yet he prefers to allow his audience free association drawing strongly on a catholic imagery of The Central and Southern Americas in his depiction of familiar objects that we associate with a particular cultural heritage. The skulls and sightless creatures make a direct connection to the viewer in their simple blank stares as both descriptive of objectified quasi-religious symbols and guardians of a deeper connection to the texts carrying, in some form, the artists’ intention.