Artist: Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Mao (Mao Tse Tung) 1972
Screenprint printed in color ink on wove paper 36×36
Many of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings are in some way autobiographical, and Untitled may be considered a form of self-portraiture. The skull here exists somewhere between life and death. The eyes are listless, the face is sunken in, and the head looks lobotomized and subdued. Yet there are wild colors and spirited marks that suggest a surfeit of internal activity. Developing his own personal iconography, in this early work Basquiat both alludes to modernist appropriation of African masks and employs the mask as a means of exploring identity. Basquiat labored over this painting for months — evident in the worked surface and imagery — while most of his pieces were completed with bursts of energy over just a few days. The intensity of the painting, which was presented at his debut solo gallery exhibition in New York City, may also represent Basquiat’s anxieties surrounding the pressures of becoming a commercially successful artist.
Photo 📸 Kim Bell
Influential street artist Shepard Fairey has been a consistent presence in national and international art scenes since the 1990s. The LA-based artist is perhaps best known locally through his downtown Detroit mural at One Campus Martius, his ubiquitous Hope image created originally as a grassroots activism tool to support Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, and the pervasive We the People poster series for the 2017 Women’s March and beyond.
Shepard Fairey: Salad Days, 1989-1999, considers the first 10 years of Fairey’s artistic practice, and its roots in the graphic language and philosophies of the punk scene. Punk’s ethos played a decisive role in the artist’s early work. “When I discovered punk rock, and realized that music could have an attitude in its style but a specific point of view in its lyrics,” states Fairey, “I became even more interested in how it works as a way of shaping attitudes and culture.”
From 1989 to 1999, the artist adopted many of punk’s biting and playful graphic strategies, as well as its low-tech methods of production and distribution. Fairey created his first Andre the Giant has a Possesticker in a spontaneous DIY manner, appropriating an image of professional wrestler André René Roussimoff (aka André the Giant) from a newspaper. The image would gain iconic status when it spread via friends and fans to city streets across the United States and eventually around the world. The Andre the Giant campaign and image would transform in the mid-1990s into the Obey Giant series, which was inspired by John Carpenter’s sci-fi horror film, They Live (1988) and its plot about subliminal messages implanted in a society in order to control its inhabitants. Taking inspiration from early Russian Constructivist poster designs in particular and from revolutionary propaganda posters in general, Obey Giant prints were posted unsolicited on billboards, buildings, and other parts of the city.
“In Fairey’s earliest works we can see the inheritance of the punk ethos: the satirical impulse, the guerilla-style poster sniping, the oblique references to pop culture, and the very public stage of the street as a place for unapologetic individual expression,” states Blauvelt, Director of the Cranbrook Art Museum. He continues, “Shepard Fairey is a perfect bridge to connect the history of punk graphics that we are also exhibiting at the same time to his seminal work from the 1990s.”
Shepard Fairey: Salad Days, 1989-1999 showcases the artist’s formative years through a variety of posters, stickers, and archival documents showing his engagement with punk. It will also feature a new installation in Cranbrook Art Museum’s galleries created by the artist.
👀🍳🎨 Eyes and Eggs, arguably one of #Basquiat’s “simpler” canvases. The work is just a man, evidently a chef of sorts, holding up his pan of eggs, with his name tag reading “Joe”. He is staring at the viewer with so much intensity that one feels powerless. The piece stands as the reminder of the everyday moment that one never takes time to notice: the labor that goes unseen, the eggs that we eat without any gratitude for where they came from, and the consequences of such blind actions.
Photo: 📸 Kim Bell
Unlike his contemporaries Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, de Kooning’s paintings refer to natural forms and specific places or events, pushed into pure abstraction by his reliance on color and the deep build-up of paint to create form. Depth and perspective are subordinated to the flattening effects of his slashing, violent brushwork. Some of the “abstract landscapes” from 1957 to 1963 are based on the landscape around Long Island Sound, including Merritt Parkway, a local highway. Speed is suggested by the controlled thrusts of the brush while the naturalistic palette conveys the crisscross of the road through the landscape.
Photo: 📸 Kim Bell