Quotes by Jean Michel Basquiat & Writing the Future
Untitled, 1983 & Fun Fridge
“The more I paint the more I like everything.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat
Basquiat’s piece above, Untitled (1983) inspired him to explain about the piece (per the gallery label at the MFA),
“I was trying to paint a very urban landscape… I tried to paint like the Lower East Side and what it was like to live there and you know… Spanish things from the neighborhood and like…. I don’t know, bodegas, images and stuff like that.”
“I cross out words so you will see them more; the fact that they are obscured makes you want to read them.” – Jean Michel Basquiat
Regarding his use of text in his paintings, he also is quoted as saying:
“There are about 30 words around you all the time, like ‘thread’ or ‘exit.’” — Jean-Michel Basquiat
This environmental inspiration is an interesting concept: Basquiat was pulling the words in his pieces directly from life as he painted. What words surround us? What did he keep? What did he scratch out and why?
Campbell’s Soup Train, 1980
Fab 5 Freddy’s Campbell’s Soup train, a collaboration with Lee Quiñones dates to 1980. A recent Artnews article interviews the two artists and discusses its significance – one of which is “Campbell’s Soup directly contradicted the racist assumption that graffiti art was unmoored from art history, proving that muralism on trains had its pulse on every corner of its metropolis: this train was rooted in myriad cultural and artistic influences, including but absolutely not limited to the canon of contemporary art, art history, comic book culture, and commercial design.” — Liz Munsell and Greg Tate
“I don’t listen to what art critics say. I don’t know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is.” – Jean-Michel Basquiat
Ransom Note, CEE, 1984
“Graffiti has a lot of rules in it as to what you can do and what you can’t do, and I think it’s hard to make art under those conditions.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat
“The black person is the protagonist in most of my paintings. I realized that I didn’t see many paintings with black people in them.”
— Jean-Michel Basquiat
The gallery label says it all here (and is fascinating!): “Basquiat portrays ERO (Dominique Philbert) in dual perspective at the height of his short but standout art career. ERO (“Ever Rocking On”) was one of the youngest talents of the post-graffiti movement. He exhibited at Fun Gallery at just fifteen and was featured in many foundational post-graffiti exhibitions alongside Basquiat, Fab 5 Freddy, Futura, and others. Here the collaged element, xeroxed from a drawing, recalls the notebooks in which Basquiat, ERO and others tested out writings and compositional strategies before migrating them onto canvas. Its repetition of the word “CARBON” — the elemental basis for drawing tools such as graphite and charcoal– alludes to both artists’ creative calling.”
“I am not a black artist, I am an artist.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat
Please, let us all remember this quote. We don’t think of white artists as such – give artists of other races the same grace to be individuals instead of a representative of their ethnic identities.
“I start a picture and I finish it. I don’t think about art while I work. I try to think about life.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat
Six Crimee, 1982
“Believe it or not, I can actually draw.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat
Selected Fab 5 Freddy Haring and LA2 Pieces
I haven’t always been a huge Haring fan, but his work continues to grow on me (as does Basquiat’s!). The dedication to the craft, as well as a recognizable style that works on multiple supports makes Haring’s pieces particularly memorable additions to Writing the Future. Here are a few examples.
Untitled (Football Helmet), 1981-84
A multi-media piece, this was a surprise to find in the exhibition. For those who can’t read the tiny print on the photograph, here’s the text from the museum label:
“Basquiat’s practice moved fluidly between disciplines, collapsing the boundaries between painting, drawing, sculpture, fashion, performance, writing and music. He expressed his fascination with celebrity by both depicting sports heroes and famous musicians in his two-dimensional works and by masterfully styling himself in performances and everyday life. He wore this helmet in a number of early performance-based collaborative works.”
“Since I was seventeen I thought I might be a star. I’d think about all my heroes, Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix… I had a romantic feeling about how these people became famous.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat
“Fire will attract more attention than any other cry for help.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat
Rammellzee’s Samurai and more
The final room, painted all black with a samurai costume at the center was certainly a showstopper. Check out a few shots from it!
Certainly Rammellzee’s Samurai and his pyramid urn were the show-stoppers (out of respect I haven’t included a photograph of the mirrored pyramid containing his remains, which he requires be displayed anytime his art is displayed!)
This whole show brings added credibility to graffiti and the post-graffiti movement as real art historical trends that deserve collecting and study. I applaud the curators, and hope that the addition of quotes by Jean Michel Basquiat have added a bit of extra insight and enjoyment to this (alas, incomplete) collection of works from the show.
For more on art trends, be sure to check out the Art Week in Miami: Trends article where we update what we see in current art trends every year!