Hebru Brantley piece from his 2016 collection.
Hebru Brantley piece from his 2016 collection.
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
Twombly was a reclusive, quasi-mythic figure of contemporary art. Born in Lexington, Virginia, the artist spent his early career in New York before moving to Italy in 1957, where he lived until his death in 2011. Long celebrated as a painter’s painter, Twombly remained less popularly known than the two most prominent members of his generation, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. Twombly’s work, however, was characterized almost from the beginning as a surprising and dazzling complement both to abstract expressionist painting (especially the work of Jackson Pollock) and the neo-Dada practices of Rauschenberg and Johns. Twombly’s development was also shaped by new postwar European art, including Jean Dubuffet and Italian artists such as Alberto Burri and Piero Manzoni, whose own work marked a striking departure from old conventions of beauty and taste. Deliberately unstable and momentary in their initial appearance, Twombly’s pictures engage formlessness as a vernacular pictorial medium for intense personal rumination on mythological and poetic themes. With his agitated line, his scattered accretions of pigment, and his highly idiosyncratic evocation of the classical past as a haunting experience of time and change, Twombly achieved a unique and deeply challenging body of work.
Untitled (Bolsena) is one of a series of 14 large paintings that Twombly created during August and September 1969, working by himself in the Palazzo del Drago, a desolate stone house overlooking the lake of Bolsena, north of Rome. Comprising oil-based housepaint, wax crayon, and lead pencil on warm ocher-white ground, the work marks an eruptive departure from the relatively uninterrupted sequence of dark-ground gray—or “blackboard”—paintings that Twombly had been producing since 1966. Both abstract and cryptically imagistic, the artist’s vigorous yet fragile hybrid of painting and script here includes a loosened geometry of tumbling diagrammatic signs. Indeed, the sparse, variegated marks that characterize the Bolsena series stand significantly apart from the refined, allover scrawl of the gray paintings. Twombly derived these graphic forms from a group of drawings that he produced in January of that year on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin. The surfaces of these works are endowed with an insistent presence, although wiped areas lend a subtle impression of shallow pictorial space.
Since the beginning of his career, Twombly employed themes from classical mythology in his work, often inscribing names and places as a means of identifying motifs. In Untitled (Bolsena), mythological content appears in an unexpected guise: according to the artist, some of the signs in the Bolsena series allude to the Apollo space flight and moon landing that occurred in July 1969, just before he began this series of work. Numbers, diagrammatic images, and other marks apparently allude to the logistics of the Apollo mission, which filled the news that summer. These marks are set against areas of erasure and obscuring clouds of paint, passages that transform the surface of the work into a palimpsest—a metaphor for the passage of historical time
Photo: Kim Bell
Jean-Michel Basquiat began his career as a wild-child, anti-establishment graffiti artist, and his rebellious stance is most graphically evidenced in his 1982 painting Obnoxious Liberals.
As the title suggests, Obnoxious Liberals depicts a series of figures representing capitalism and its hapless, powerless victims. The exploited, corroded victim, on the one hand, is virtually held hostage by the minions of mainstream White American culture, as represented by dollar signs, cowboy hats and Uncle Sam top hats as well as a “Not For Sale” sign. The victim’s dark skin also hints at the systematic oppression of African-Americans.
Basquiat was born in New York City in 1960 to parents of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent. The racial injustices he witnessed from an early age filled him with rage and the urge to rebel against the system. The political overtones of an indignant Jean-Michel are most obvious in Obnoxious Liberals.
Basquiat had no compunction about accompanying his visual art with written words expressing his intentions. Phrases, expressions, even nonsense syllables were acceptable to him as long as they helped him to convey his urgent, keenly felt messages to the public. For Basquiat, his message, the need to be understood, was just as important as the visual creation itself.
One of Basquiat’s main influences was Pablo Picasso, and this influence is notable in Obnoxious Liberals. The painting is clearly reminiscent of Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica and also portrays the atrocities perpetrated on the helpless victims by ruthless and unscrupulous authoritarian figures.
Although Basquiat’s creations often appear chaotic, as if he simply blew them out of his head on the spur of the moment, in fact, this is an impression which the artist himself strove painstakingly to produce.
The truth was that, in reality, he spent a great deal of time pondering over his canvases and carefully constructing in his mind what he wished to display, the disposition and lay-outs of his work and the messages he wanted to transmit.
The charismatic creator was a brilliant artist who knew how to employ vivid color for masterful effect. The use of primal, primary tones, splashes of raging red to attract the eye, glaring blue and black contrasting with pristine white and the almost complete absence of any other hues are some of the notable features of this painting.
Obnoxious Liberals, with its clear, confident strokes, is without a doubt a perfect example of Basquiat at his best.
Photo: Kim Bell
Considered one of the most important painters 🎨 of the 20th century, Clyfford Still (1904–1980) was among the first generation of Abstract Expressionist artists who developed a new and powerful approach to painting in the years immediately following World War II.
After the artist’s death in 1980, the Clyfford Still Estate was sealed off from public and scholarly view. Still’s will stipulated that his estate be given in its entirety to an American city willing to establish a permanent museum dedicated solely to his work, ensuring its survival for exhibition and study. The Still Museum collection, which represents 95 percent of the artist’s lifetime output, includes approximately 3,125 works created between 1920 and 1980. This museum is full of inspiration. Pictured above is the last painting created by Clyfford Still in 1979.
📸photo: Kim bell
👀🍳🎨 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