Visual Black Culture

.. one piece of work. New younger writers would often write the initials of a crew that were highly respected amongst other writers on their own piece. If that crew found out that it had happened they would spray out their initials. Sometimes they would go over the whole piece, something that shows great disrespect. After graffiti had been around for a while the fine art world started to take interest in certain artists. These critics and artists could see the value of graffiti.

Its expression had been noted, along with the fact that it was starting to grow out of its urban culture. It was time for graffiti to move into a gallery. Probably the most famous of writers to be accepted as a fine artist was Jean Michel Basquiat. He grew up in New York and got into street and subway graffiti at an early age. After high school he had no official art training, but he had a great interest in comic book, Egyptian and childrens art. By nineteen seventy-nine he had started to associate with fine artists and musicians, he also started to make paintings on canvasses.

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In nineteen eighty he was commissioned for a Times Square show. He painted a large wall in mixed media including spray cans. His work continued and he was loved by most of the art world. Some people said that he was primitive and at the same time genius. It was not long before the art establishment started to exploit him. This came at about the same time as his drug problems started to get dangerous.

He died in nineteen eighty-eight of an overdose at the early age of twenty-seven. Jean Michel Basquiat was a great consumer whatever he encountered. He would simply swallow and then produce work, in respect to whatever the subject was. Whether it was graffiti or childrens drawings that he used he had a talent for including strangely diverse materials into his work. Basquiat would appropriate images from various areas into his work including things like friends childrens drawings, pictures from chemistry textbooks and elements from the bible. He used things like this as his visual language and arranged them in an eccentric way.

Through his life and career he re-edited these symbols with reference to sex, black culture and t.v. Basquiat was very poetic his use of words was incompetant and yet genius at the same time. The issues within Basquiats work are based mainly around three things firstly, the conflict between life and death, secondly, the greed and stupidity of the art world and thirdly black issues concerning racism. There were times when he had lived on the streets, so it was not as though he painted about these subjects in vain. Even once he was famous, he was still treated with prejudice.

Upon visiting Bloomingdales in New York with Andy Warhol, Basquiat intended to purchase a $3000 gift certificate for his mother. But when he took out his gold American express card he was asked for further identification. Even when he was with one of the worlds most famous artists, Basquiat was still treated with a mixture of racism and suspicion . Also, living on the streets of New York made him more aware of what it means to be alive and what it feels like to be faced with death. In his final self-portrait, Riding with Death, he is placed on a skeletal horse as a skeleton himself.

its composition is strikingly similar to both a well known drawing by Leonardo da Vinci and, even more, to Julian Schnabels 1980 painting entitled Death also portrayed as a skeletal rider on a skeletal horse. The writings of Samo his alter ego were similar to the themes that he used in his later work; capitalism, morality, consumerism, racism and popular culture. All through his life he kept student like sketch books these were filled with his art and his verse. Four of these books were published in nineteen ninety three, after they were left at a friends house. In the works by Basquiat that include no text he used icons as irony rather than effect. Many say his real strength was style of composition, which is almost a visual equivalent of freestyle jazz.

In that it is crazy but well put together. Basquiat drew like a child not to say that he was not a great artist but that he had the freedom of a child. He would use strokes with a brush without any hesitation or doubt. He would rarely work in silence, there would often be a TV in the room or there would be music playing. Either of the above would often filter into his work. Another of his skills was to absorb random sources and make them his own through his technique.

In seventy eight he sold out exposing him and his friend Al Diez as Samo. He accepted one hundred dollars from a news paper for this but that was not the only thing he gained. His rise to fame had begun. Many of his early canvasses were similar to that of his Samo writings with some images as well. At this time Basqiat was also making small artifacts as wall as paintings, these included baseballs postcards and items of clothing adorned with his own logo manmade.

After a while he had enough money to by decent materials and reference books. His awareness of art expanded and his usage of his visual language became more relevant. As first his work was warfare, attacking the art establishment disrespecting its values and rules. He did this by painting on walls in public places that were easily visible to anyone that cared to pass by. He made work for the fun gallery show; this was still blatantly rejecting the white governed art world.

This did not stop though, even when he became hugely popular his passion was still motivated by this conflict. Its said that you can only be the best some of the time this was true of Basquiat. When he was working well he would over produce, leaving gaps where his work would not be as strong as it once was. Through his work there spanned a theme of found objects, often wooden things like doors, boxes or easels. Basquiat said on a few occasions that being celebrity was more important to him than the skill and technique of his art. Though he was greatly talented his work did at times become repetitive. He could not edit himself and in a time of such consumerism no one else would do it for him.

It would only mean less money for them. His place in art history is constantly under great debate. The argument of whether or not his work was primitive genius or simply fluke will continue. But he is seen as an art hero by many of the young and that is where the future of art lies. Bibliography Timmes.

R, Bradley. A Young British Art, Booth Clibborn, 1999 Kent. S, Shark Infested Waters, Philip Wilson, 1994 Kelley. R.D.G, Harper. P.B, Representing What?, freize,issue 31.

Pg41, 1996 Massey. D.S, American Apartied, Harvard Press, 1993 Morgan. S, The Elephant Man, freize,issue15. Pg 40, 1994 Doy. G, Black Visual Culture, I B Tauris Press, 2000 Hoban. P, Basquiat, Quartet Books, 1998 Wye.

D, Thinking Print , MOMA, NY, 1996 Powell. R.J, Black Art in the 20th Century, Thames and Hudson, 1998 Sontag. S, Against Interpritation, Cox and Wyman, 1994 Mirzoeff. N, The Visual Culture Reader, Routledge, New York, 1998 Mirzoeff. N, An Introduction to Visual Culture, Routledge, New York, 1999 Hayward Gallery, Rhapsodies in Black, Cornerhouse, 1997 Jacques.

G, Free Within Ourselves, Franklin Watts, 1996 Kemps. N, Big Eyes, Small Windows, Black Dog, 1999 Arts and Painting.


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