Biggie “Cojones” , Silver (2014)
Size 48 inches x 84 inches
Uniquely hand-pulled Silkscreen and acrylic on canvas
The Know Contemporary (Los Angeles, CA)
photo: Kim Bell 📸
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
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
Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) was an American artist from Brooklyn, New York.
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s origins and rise to fame, seen as never before through the eyes of Al Diaz, fellow graffiti artist, SAMO co-conspirator and confidant.
Music by Hogan Grip © Tony Higgins and Declan Kelly
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s contemporary and friend, the artist Toxic, on the paintings, the scene and the Basquiat no one knew.
Music: “Close to the Edge” by JS aka The Best
Pump Audio / Getty Images