Saturday, January 22, 2011

Basquiat Musée D’art Moderne de La Ville de Paris 11 Avenue du Président Wison by craniv boyd

Basquiat Musée D'art Moderne de La Ville de Paris 11 Avenue du Président Wison by craniv boyd

Director: Fabrice Hergott Curators: Dieter Buchhart and Marie-Sophie Carron de la Carriére.


The barefoot Haitian in Armani holding a paintbrush is seated, one foot propped up on an overturned chair. The man on paint stained concrete floor looks at his photographer from the distant time of nearly 30 years ago, and is captured for relative posterity, and for the cover of a New York magazine, dread locked guardian of cool, a youth cut down prior to his prime, shadow sentinel between the camera and his paintings of Griot.


Basquiat at the Musée D'art Moderne de La Ville de Paris, is the saddest exhibition of paintings that I have seen for a long time. The 1985 commissioned portrait for the New York Times Sunday Magazine is the same photograph used for the exposition announce, it is blown up and reproduced faithfully and indefatigably over the posters in adverts in the metro in Paris, and the ubiquity of this image of the man whom German painter Daniel Richter called "the last Jackson Pollock", continues inside the museum in the form of a 6 meters high blow up enlargement of the magazine cover on the wall at the end of the exhibition. It is so big that a man standing 180cm can stand under Basquiat's foot on the chair in the photograph. As a viewer the exhibition public traverses a long 45 minute wait in the cold winter air 11 euros admission fee and for their trouble a copy of the photograph of Basquiat is given to them at the entrance, again used as a cover, this time of the bilingual exhibition plan and guide.


The years between 18 years of age and that of 28 years and opiate over-dose in 1988 are the years covered by the work in the show. What ensues are 12 stations of the life of the1980's nihilistic New York bohemian. The different rooms of the exhibition are of the different creative periods in Basquiat's short protean life, they read like a curriculum vitæ of artist exhibitions, begging the question of how much was or was not the oeuvre of Basquiat influenced by the galleries he was with at the time. For the organizational purposes of this biographical exhibition the groups of Basquiat's paintings, drawings and prints are bracketed by the art dealers who showed his work. Rather than elucidating Basquiat's own creative trajectory, or shift in subject matter, the exhibition organizers elect to bring to the fore the big name "branded" art dealers who sold Basquiat's work in the 1980's. Framing the artistic output of Basquiat's life thus can lead one to believe that the periods of Basquait's creative development correlate with who showed his work. That his art dealers were responsible, the stewards for the genius of Jean-Michel Basquiat. It diverts attention from inherent meaning present in the artist's work or the possible postmodern symbolism and iconography there and leads the public into the relatively uninteresting discussion of the Art world. We are led through:1 the birth of Samo ,2  "new york /new wave", 3 the studios, 4 Annina Nosei Gallery 1981-1983, 6 fungallery, east village, New York, November 1982, 7 Drawings, 8 Bischofberger Gallery, Zurich, 1983, 9 Larry Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles, 1982-83/Mary Boon Michael Werner Gallery, New York May 1984, 10  The Warhol-Basquiat Collaborations, 1984-85, and room 12 the last years. Of these rooms the only rooms that are undeniable titled after the artists own creative processes are, 1 the birth of samo, 3 the studios,7 drawings and 12 the last years. It is surprisingly comically remiss to mount a major exhibition about the life of an artist, a posthumous retrospective that does more to honor the living art dealers of the dead misguided genius Haitian artist, than the work of the dead artist himself.


When the work speaks for its self it screams in a voice of pain. Many of the paintings in this exhibition are generously on loan to the Musée d'art Modern de le Ville de Paris, from several private collections many in the U.S.A, some private collections are dubiously private, or some are blatantly for sale, such as a painting on loan to the museum curtesy of major auction house Soetheby's. Dubiously private in the way that when a known and famous art dealer for 1980's painting displays work from their private collection of the very commodity they are renowned and lauded for selling, 1980-s neoexpressionist painting. How private can the private collection of Bishofberger be after all would there not be a truly enormous price tag some where deep behind the canvas? How private can his collection be if a heading for a room in the same exhibition tells the public that he has an Art Gallery. All that considered it is quite a rarity to see all of this work from a mythical hyped artist shown in one exhibition. Not many artists dead at the ripe age of 28 are having one of their former colleagues direct a self-financed independent feature film with cast of: David Bowie, Gary Oldman and Dennis Hopper acting, like painter Julian Schnabel did with his 1995 Film Basquiat.


The burden of heritage: in his short and problematic 8 year creative public run on the bank of a career that Jean-Michel Basquiat had between the years of 1980- and 1988, the year of his death, Basquiat created or left behind a legacy. No next of kin as publicly known yet, but a myth of the young urban black artist. As a homeless teenager in New York City with a burgeoning drug habit and no high school diploma, Basquiat was able somehow to land a movie role starring in the now cult classic Downtown 81, soon later he was "discovered" by New York City's art commissioner Henry Geldzahler, and critic/artist Rene Ricard around the time of his inclusion in the Greater New York exhibition at alternative art venue P.S. 1. The street urchin moved to the basement of his first art dealer where he then lived a charmed life of a gifted drug addicted. Money, materials, and space to work with and in a constant stream of collectors buying every painting in sight via the convenient studio visits organized by his handler Nosei, to boot.


In America, Basquiat because of his celebration in the media, proof of which one can look to the 1985 cover of The New York Times Magazine (also in a vitrine behind glass at this current museum spectacle), becomes more of a household name than that of Horace Pipen, who is also an African American auto-didact artist painter but lived a much longer life, one with less media hype and celebration. Horace Pipen has the occasional honor of black history month or the odd U.S. postage stamp reproduces a painting of his or a public television will make a documentary of his life, about how his experiences fighting on the front in the First World War filtered into his naive paintings. This could be seen as a kind of state supported for the art of a historically disadvantaged African American artist. Pipen's work although in several prominent public museum collections is not one to be on the cover of catalogues for the fashionable evening sales of rival auction houses Christies and Soetheby's. There has yet to be made a bio-picture with all star cast romanticising the life and times of Horace Pipen.


For many young African American male artists, people unfamiliar with art and marginally familiar with the household names of art in the past 30 years will ask: "are you familiar with the work of Basquiat?" if providing said people with the information that you are an artist. Much worse when working in a method that is expressionistic it the comment that "your work looks like Basquiat!" which is sadly is a compliment when compared to "you look like Jean-Michel" What kind of a sad role model when the most known and lauded of American artists of color is an uneducated drug addicted wild child of the 1980's. The most known hetero American male white art success stories like Chuck Close, Brice Marden, or Richard Serra, all went and got their Masters in Fine Arts from a certain ivy-league art school in New Haven Connecticut.  Why is it that there are not nearly enough celebrated educated African American African or Caribbean artists who are widely known to the American or global public? Why should a young male artists of color feel the need to fit in some kind of a pre fabricated nihilist pattern of bohemian artist ala mode of Morrison, Hendrix, Parker, Joplin or for that matter Ribaud or Baudelair? What accounts for the fascination that French or Americans have for la vie boheme? Why should artists suffer? In the myth of suffering and nihilism that some artists make into their true life's work is a meaningful enduring art created? What are the boundaries between hype and history? In the speculative interest in purchasing a Basquiat painting what are collectors really supporting, is it the estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, or is it the already deep pockets of the art dealers who propped up an promoted a talented drug addict from a hard working middle class immigrant family who of his own volition dropped out of private school and lived on the streets of New York? Why invest in one more major art exhibition lauding the work of a dead bard, than supporting instead of hyping for instance the voices of those artists still living, artists with promise or better yet accomplishments?


What made me so sad personally about this exhibition was that so many young people were coming to see work of an artist who took an incredulous amount of many drugs and in that addictive dark behavior did not allow himself to nurture whatever talent he had to share with the world. I was hurt by a representation of American art by this controversial choice of artist that represents the art scene of New York as primarily decadent and debauched. I cannot bring my self to say "Basquiat on Avenue du Président Wilson take it down!" but I can say I am not happy to see it up, because although a special honour to see such an extensive retrospective mounted on Basquiat, seeing all his work collected together at once one is skeptical of not the authentic life, mind or hands that produced this art but of the strength or generosity of the artworks themselves. One questions the merits of his Xeroxed drawings painted over, or of an artist with a heroin habit that paints a picture that announces "man dies" one month, then takes an overdose of a street drug cocktail the next month. A self-actualizing artist as prophet whom many important collectors have collected, whom many important art dealers have dealt, because these rich people say his work is relevant and have said so for the past years during his life and after his death does that make it so? by craniv boyd


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.