GWOP University

"Art Study" by Kim Bell

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Jean Michel Basquiat “Obnoxious Liberals” (1982)

The Broad

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

Mark Rothko (1957)

LACMA

Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko is known for the hovering, shimmering fields of color in his mature paintings. White Center reflects his fascination with the emotional and visual power of the color red, which dominates his canvases of the 1950s and 1960s. The red rectangles suggest ritual and elemental associations (blood and fire, life and death), while an inner light appears to emanate from the white center, suggesting an ethereal, numinous glow. For Rothko, color was key to a spiritual realm, evoking transcendental truths that could not be expressed through recognizable imagery.

Photo: Kim Bell

Clyfford Still (1979)

Still Museum (Denver, CO)

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

Basquiat “Eyes and Eggs” (1983)

The Broad Museum

👀🍳🎨 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

William de Kooning (1959)

Detroit Institute Of Arts

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