Tag Archives: Italy

Max Klinger

Max Klinger:  painter, sculptor

Max Klinger (18 February 1857 – 5 July 1920) was a German symbolist painter, sculptor, printmaker, and writer.


Klinger was born in Leipzig and studied in the beautiful and inspirational city of Karlsruhe, Germany. An admirer of the etchings of Menzel and Goya, he shortly became a skilled and imaginative engraver in his own right. He began creating sculptures in the early 1880s. From 1883–1893 he lived in Rome, and became increasingly influenced by the Italian Renaissance and antiquity.

"The Judgement of Paris," 1886-87
“The Judgement of Paris,” 1886-87

His best known work is a series of ten etchings entitled Paraphrase on the Finding of a Glove (printed 1881). These pictures were based on images which came to Klinger in dreams after finding a glove at an ice-skating rink. In the leitmotivic device of a glove—belonging to a woman whose face we never see—Klinger anticipated the research of Freud and Krafft-Ebing on fetish objects. (see slideshow below for all ten plates)


In this case, the glove becomes a symbol for the artist’s romantic yearnings, finding itself, in each plate, in different dramatic situations, and performing the role that we might expect the figure of the beloved herself to fulfill. Semioticians have also seen in the symbol of the glove an example of a sliding signifier, or signifier without signified—in this case, the identity of the woman which Klinger is careful to conceal. The plates suggest various psychological states or existential crises faced by the artist protagonist (who bears a striking resemblance to the young Klinger).

"Bust of Elsa Asenijeff," c. 1900
“Bust of Elsa Asenijeff,” c. 1900
Klinger’s model, Elsa Asenijeff, c. 1897

Klinger traveled extensively around the art centers of Europe for years before returning to Leipzig in 1893. From 1897 he mostly concentrated on sculpture; his marble statue of Beethoven was an integral part of the Vienna Secession exhibit of 1902.

“Statue of Beethoven,” 1902

Klinger was cited by many artists (notably Giorgio de Chirico) as being a major link between the symbolist movement of the 19th century and the start of the metaphysical and Surrealist movements of the 20th century. Asteroid 22369 Klinger is named in his honor.

Elsa Asenijeff, 1896
“The Great Goddess,” 1916
“Adam, Opus III”
“Amor, Tod, und Jenseits (Love, Death, and Beyond)”

In Elsa Bernstein’s naturalist play Dämmerung, Klinger is mentioned in the third act when Carl talks of being able to afford “etchings by Klinger” for 80 francs.
Inspection Medical Hermeneutics, an infamous Moscow art collective, based their 1991 installation Klinger’s Boxes, on an idea inspired by Klinger’s Paraphrase on the Finding of a Glove.

From “Klinger’s Boxes,” this is “Cold Reduction” 1991

Edited from:


Max Klinger

 


Digital collage portrait by TMLipp
Created for The Artist Birthday Series,
February 18, 2017

(click image for full resolution)

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Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter (born 9 February 1932) is a German visual artist. Richter has produced abstract as well as photorealistic paintings, and also photographs and glass pieces. His art follows the examples of Picasso and Jean Arp in undermining the concept of the artist’s obligation to maintain a single cohesive style.
In October 2012, Richter’s Abstraktes Bild set an auction record price for a painting by a living artist at $34 million (£21 million). This was exceeded in May 2013 when his 1968 piece Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral square, Milan) was sold for $37.1 million (£24.4 million) in New York. This was further exceeded in February 2015 when his painting Abstraktes Bild sold for $44.52 million (£30.4 million) in London at Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Sale.


Richter was born in Hospital Dresden-Neustadt in Dresden, Saxony, and grew up in Reichenau, Lower Silesia (now Bogatynia, Poland), and in Waltersdorf (Zittauer Gebirge), in the Upper Lusatian countryside, where his father worked as a village teacher. Gerhard’s father, Horst Richter, was a mathematics and physics student at the Technische Hochschule in Dresden, when he married Hildegard Schönfelder in 1931, and Gerhard was born the following year.

Gerhard Richter, c. 1966
Gerhard Richter, c. 1966

After struggling to maintain a position in the new Nationalist Socialist education system, Horst found a position in Reichenau. In Reichenau, Gerhard’s younger sister, Gisela was born in November 1936. Horst and Hildegard were able to remain primarily apolitical due to Reichenau’s location in the countryside. Horst, being a teacher, was eventually forced to join the National Socialist Party. He never became an avid supporter of Nazism, and was not required to attend party rallies. In 1942, Gerhard was conscripted into the Deutsches Jungvolk, but by the end of the war he was still too young to be an official member of the Hitler Youth. In 1943 Hildegard moved the family to Waltersdorf, and was later forced to sell her piano which had great importance to her as her father had been a well known pianist.

"S. mit kind (S. with child)," 1995
“S. mit kind (S. with child),” 1995

Gerhard left school after 10th grade and apprenticed as an advertising and stage-set painter, before studying at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. In 1948, he finished higher professional school in Zittau, and, between 1949 and 1951, successively worked as an apprentice with a sign painter and as a painter. In 1950, his application for study at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts was rejected as “too bourgeois”. He finally began his studies at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts in 1951. His teachers were Karl von Appen, Heinz Lohmar (de) and Will Grohmann.

Richter married Marianne Eufinger in 1957; she gave birth to his first daughter. He married his second wife, the sculptor Isa Genzken, in 1982. Richter had a son and daughter with his third wife, Sabine Moritz after they were married in 1995.


In the early days of his career, he prepared a wall painting (Communion with Picasso, 1955) for the refectory of his Academy of Arts as part of his B.A. Another mural entitled Lebensfreude (Joy of Life) followed at the German Hygiene Museum for his diploma. It was intended to produce an effect “similar to that of wallpaper or tapestry”.

"Lebensfreude (Joy of Life)," 1956
“Lebensfreude (Joy of Life),” 1956

Both paintings were painted over for ideological reasons after Richter escaped from East to West Germany two months before the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. After German reunification two “windows” of the wall painting Joy of Life (1956) were uncovered in the stairway of the German Hygiene Museum, but these were later covered over when it was decided to restore the Museum to its original 1930 state. From 1957 to 1961 Richter worked as a master trainee in the academy and took commissions for the then state of East Germany. During this time, he worked intensively on murals like Arbeiterkampf (Workers’ struggle), on oil paintings (e.g. portraits of the East German actress Angelica Domröse and of Richter’s first wife Ema), on various self-portraits and on a panorama of Dresden with the neutral name Stadtbild (Cityscape), 1956.

“Stadtbild (Cityscape),” 1956

When he escaped to West Germany, Richter began to study at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf under Karl Otto Götz together with Sigmar Polke, HA Schult, Kuno Gonschior, Hans Erhard Walther, Konrad Lueg and Gotthard Graubner. With Polke and Konrad Fischer (de) (pseudonym Lueg) he introduced the term Kapitalistischer Realismus (Capitalistic Realism) as an anti-style of art, appropriating the pictorial shorthand of advertising. This title also referred to the realist style of art known as Socialist Realism, then the official art doctrine of the Soviet Union, but it also commented upon the consumer-driven art doctrine of western capitalism.

Richter with colleagues Sigmar Polke, Konrad Fischer (then Lueg) and Manfred Kuttner

 

“Party,” 1963

Richter taught at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design as a visiting professor; he returned to the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1971, where he was a professor for over 15 years. In 1983, Richter resettled from Düsseldorf to Cologne, where he still lives and works today. In 1996, he moved into a studio designed by architect Thiess Marwede.

Window at Cologne Cathedral, by Gerhard Richter
Window at Cologne Cathedral, by Gerhard Richter
Window at Cologne Cathedral, by Gerhard Richter

Nearly all of Richter’s work demonstrates both illusionistic space that seems natural and the physical activity and material of painting—as mutual interferences. For Richter, reality is the combination of new attempts to understand—to represent; in his case, to paint—the world surrounding us. Richter’s opinions and perspectives on his own art, and that of the larger art market and various artistic movements, are compiled in a chronological record of “Writings” and interviews. The following quotes are excerpts from the compilation:

  • “I am a Surrealist.”
  • “My sole concern is the object. Otherwise I would not take so much trouble over my choice of subjects; otherwise I would not paint at all.”
  • “My concern is never art, but always what art can be used for.”


Edited from:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerhard_Richter


Digital collage portrait by TMLipp
Created for The Artist Birthday Series:
February 9, 2017

Gerhard Richter

(click image for full resolution)

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Mark Ryden

Mark Ryden: painter, author, filmmaker

Mark Ryden (born January 20, 1963) is an American painter, part of the Lowbrow (or Pop Surrealist) art movement. He was dubbed “the god-father of pop surrealism” by Interview Magazine. Artnet named Ryden and his wife, the painter Marion Peck, the King and Queen of Pop Surrealism and one of the ten most important art couples in Los Angeles. Ryden’s aesthetic is developed from subtle amalgams of many sources, from Ingres, David and other French classicists to Little Golden Books. Ryden also draws his inspiration from anything that will evoke mystery: old toys, anatomical models, stuffed animals, skeletons and religious ephemera found in flea markets.

Ryden was born in Medford, Oregon on January 20, 1963, but was raised in Southern California, where his father made a living painting, restoring and customizing cars. He has two sisters and two brothers, one a fellow artist named Keyth Ryden, who works under the name KRK. Mark Ryden graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in 1987.

Ryden in 1983

From 1988 to 1998 Ryden made his living as a commercial artist. During this period he created numerous album covers including Michael Jackson’s Dangerous, the 4 Non Blondes’ Bigger, Better, Faster, More!, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ One Hot Minute, Jack Off Jill’s Clear Hearts Grey Flowers, and Aerosmith’s Love in an Elevator.

Album art for Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous”
Artwork for 4 Non Blondes’ “Bigger Better Faster More!”
Artwork for The Red Hot Chili Peppers' "One Hot Minute"
Artwork for The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “One Hot Minute”
Artwork for Jack Off Jill's "Clear Hearts Grey Flowers"
Artwork for Jack Off Jill’s “Clear Hearts Grey Flowers”

Also during this time, Ryden created book covers including Stephen King’s novels Desperation and The Regulators.

Coverart for Stephen King’s “Desperation”
Coverart for Stephen King’s “The Regulators”

He continued working as a commercial artist until his work was taken up by Robert Williams, a former member of the Zap Comix collective, who in 1994 put it on the cover of Juxtapoz, a magazine devoted to “lowbrow art”.

Coverart for Juxtapoz magazine, #17 1998

Ryden’s solo debut show entitled The Meat Show was in Pasadena, California in 1998. Meat is a reoccurring theme in his work. He observes the disconnect in our contemporary culture between meat we use for food and the living, breathing creature it comes from. “I suppose it is this contradiction that brings me to return to meat in my art.” According to Ryden, meat is the physical substance that makes all of us alive and through which we exist in this reality. All of us are wearing our bodies, which are like a garment of meat.

“Incarnation,” by Mark Ryden, 2009

A midcareer retrospective, Wondertoonel, which refers to a cabinet of curiosities or “Wunderkammer” (“wonder-room”), was co-organized in 2004 by the Frye Museum in Seattle and the Pasadena Museum of California Art. It was the best attended exhibition since the Frye Art Museum opened in 1952, and also broke attendance records in Pasadena. Debra Byrne, curator at the Frye at the time of Ryden’s exhibition, placed Ryden’s work in the camp of the carnivalesque—a strain of visual culture rooted in such works as Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. According to the Russian author and literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin (1895–1975), there are three forms of carnivalesque art — the ritualized spectacle, the comic composition and various genres of billingsgate (foul language) — all three of which are interwoven in Ryden’s work.


In 2007, The Tree Show opened at the Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles. In this exhibition Ryden explores the modern human experience of nature. Ryden explains, “Some people look at these massive trees and feel a sort of spiritual awe looking at them, and then other people just want to cut them up and sell them, they only see a commodity”. Ryden has created limited editions of his art to raise money for the Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy.

In 2009, Ryden’s exhibition The Snow Yak Show was shown at the Tomio Koyama Gallery in Tokyo. In this exhibition his compositions were more serene and suggestive of solitude, peacefulness and introspection.


In 2010, The Gay 90’s: Old Tyme Art Show debuted at Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York. The central theme of the show referenced the idealism and sentimentalism of the 1890s while addressing the role of kitsch and nostalgia in our current culture. Here Ryden explores the line between attraction and repulsion to kitsch. According to The New York Times, “Ryden’s pictures hint at the psychic stuff that pullulates beneath the sentimental, nostalgic and naïve surface of modern kitsch.”


Also in 2010, Ryden and Peck collaborated on a fantastical project entitled Sweet Wishes, a short, stop-motion animated film, and is in this author’s opinion, one of the most wonderful things ever created.

Sweet Wishes tells the tale of Dolly, Baby and Bear and what happens when they are granted a wish from a magical fairy. That same year, the pair released the story in a book of photographs in a children’s picture-book format, in a style very much in keeping with that of both artists.

mark ryden sweet wishes
On May 13, 2014, Ryden released an album entitled The Gay Nineties Old Tyme Music: Daisy Bell, featuring Tyler the Creator, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Katy Perry, Stan Ridgway of Wall Of Voodoo, Danny Elfman, Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, Nick Cave, scarling., Kirk Hammett of Metallica, and Everlast, all giving a different rendition of the same song, “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two).” The proceeds from the signed and limited edition record benefited Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit that supports musical education in disadvantaged elementary schools. The video interpretations of the songs below, were delightfully created by Ryden. (See more at Ryden’s YouTube account here.)


From December 10th, 2016, through January 14, 2017, the Dorothy Circus Gallery in Rome, Italy, hosted the exhibition Mysterium Coniunctionis, a collaborative exhibition presenting very rare and limited edition prints from Ryden and his wife, Marion Peck. “Mysterium Coniunctionis” consisted of more than 20 artworks, mainly artist proofs, a collection that showcases Peck and Ryden’s peculiar and intriguing combinations. Their inviting compositions are executed with extremely complex, detailed artwork, that make visible a vision of society in which menace and comfort are inseparably interwoven.

See also:


Edited from:


Mark Ryden

Digital collage portrait by TMLipp
Created for The Artist Birthday Series
January 20, 2017
Click image for full resolution

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Yves Tanguy

Yves Tanguy: painter

Yves Tanguy (January 5, 1900 – January 15, 1955) was in many respects the quintessential Surrealist. A sociable eccentric who ate spiders as a party trick, and a close friend of Andre Breton, he was best-known for his misshapen rocks and molten surfaces that lent definition to the Surrealist aesthetic. Self-taught but enormously skilled, he painted a hyper-real world with exacting precision. His landscapes, a high-octane blend of fact and fiction, captured the attention of important artists and thinkers from Salvador Dalí to Mark Rothko who admitted their debt to the older artist. Even Carl Gustave Jung used a canvas by Tanguy to illustrate his theory of the collective unconscious.

Tanguy, the son of a retired navy captain, was born at the Ministry of Naval Affairs on Place de la Concorde in Paris, France. In 1918, he briefly joined the merchant navy before being drafted into the Army, where he befriended Jacques Prévert. At the end of his military service in 1922, he returned to Paris, where he worked various odd jobs. He stumbled upon a painting by Giorgio de Chirico and was so deeply impressed he resolved to become a painter himself in spite of his complete lack of formal training.

Prévert and Tanguy, c. 1919
Tanguy and Prévert, c. 1924

Through his friend Prévert, in around 1924 Tanguy was introduced into the circle of surrealist artists around André Breton. he quickly began to develop his own unique painting style, giving his first solo exhibition in Paris in 1927, and marrying his first wife, Jeannette Ducroq, later that same year. During this busy time of his life, Breton gave Tanguy a contract to paint 12 pieces a year. With his fixed income, he painted less and ended up creating only eight works of art for Breton.

"Large Painting Representing A Landscape," 1927
“Large Painting Representing A Landscape,” 1927

In December 1930, at an early screening of Buñuel and Dali’s L’Age d’Or, right-wing activists went to the lobby of the cinema where the film was being screened, and destroyed art works by Dalí, Joan Miró, Man Ray, Tanguy, and others.

“Janvier,” 1930

Throughout the 1930s, he adopted the bohemian lifestyle of the struggling artist with gusto, leading eventually to the failure of his first marriage. He had an intense affair with Peggy Guggenheim in 1938 when he went to London with his wife to hang his first retrospective exhibition in Britain at her gallery Guggenheim Jeune.

"L'ennui et la tranquilité," 1938
“L’ennui et la tranquilité,” 1938

The exhibition was a great success and Guggenheim wrote in her autobiography that “Tanguy found himself rich for the first time in his life”. She purchased his pictures Toilette de L’Air and The Sun in Its Jewel Case (Le Soleil dans son écrin) for her collection. He also painted Peggy two beautiful earrings.

Peggy Guggenheim, c. 1950, wearing earrings painted by Tanguy
Peggy Guggenheim, c. 1950, wearing earrings painted by Tanguy
"Toilette De L'Air," 1937 - originally purchased by Peggy Guggenheim, now in the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany
“Toilette De L’Air,” 1937 – originally purchased by Peggy Guggenheim, now in the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany
"The Sun In Its Jewel Case," 1937 - Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy
“The Sun In Its Jewel Case,” 1937 – Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy

The affair continued in both London and Paris and only finished when Tanguy met fellow Surrealist artist Kay Sage, who would become his second wife. After seeing and being very impressed by her work, the two began a unified and symbiotic relationship. With the outbreak of World War II, Sage moved back to her native New York, and Tanguy, judged unfit for military service, followed her. He would spend the rest of his life in the United States. Sage and Tanguy were married in Reno, Nevada on August 17, 1940.

Portrait of Yves Tanguy by George Platt Lynes, New York, 1940
Portrait of Yves Tanguy by George Platt Lynes, New York, 1940
Yves Tanguy with his wife and fellow Surrealist, Kay Sage
“The Water Seekers,” 1945

Toward the end of the war, the couple moved to Woodbury, Connecticut, converting an old farmhouse into an artists’ studio. They spent the rest of their lives there. In 1948, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Sage and Tanguy were inseparable throughout their 15-year marriage, sharing a studio in Woodbury, Connecticut and communicating only in French in their home. Both artists sought to create paintings that the French poet André Breton called “peinture-poésie,” a style influenced by poetry and dream-like imagery.

The home of Tanguy and Sage, 35 Old Town Farm Road, Woodbury, CT - built in 1830, seen here in 2004
The home of Tanguy and Sage, 35 Old Town Farm Road, Woodbury, CT – built in 1830, seen here in 2004

In January 1955, Tanguy suffered a fatal stroke at Woodbury. His body was cremated and his ashes preserved until Sage’s death in 1963. Later, his ashes were scattered by his friend Pierre Matisse on the beach at Douarnenez in his beloved Brittany, together with those of his wife.

“Boneyard of the World — Multiplication of the Arcs,” 1954 – The last known completed painting by Tanguy, now in the The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

“I cannot, nor, consequently, want to try to give a definition, even a simple one, to what I paint. If I did try, I would risk very much closing myself in a definition that would later become like a prison for me.” – Yves Tanguy

Edited from:


Yves Tanguy

Digital collage portrait by TMLipp
Created for The Artist Birthday Series
January 4, 1016
(click image for full resolution)

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Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat: painter

Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) was an American artist. He first achieved notoriety as part of SAMO©, an informal graffiti duo who wrote enigmatic epigrams in the cultural hotbed of the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the late 1970s where the hip hop, post-punk, and street art movements had coalesced. By the 1980s, he was exhibiting his Neo-Expressionist paintings in galleries and museums internationally. The instant fame and wealth took a toll on the sensitive young man, who was to succumb to the weight of his success and pass away tragically, at the age of 27.

1986, New York, New York, USA - Image by © William Coupon/CORBIS
1986, New York, New York, USA – Image by © William Coupon/CORBIS

Basquiat’s work focused on “suggestive dichotomies”, such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience, He appropriated poetry, drawing, and painting, and married text and image, abstraction, figuration, and historical information mixed with contemporary critique.


Basquiat used social commentary in his paintings as a “springboard to deeper truths about the individual”, as well as attacks on power structures and systems of racism, while his poetics were acutely political and direct in their criticism of colonialism and support for class struggle.


Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 22, 1960, shortly after the death of his elder brother, Max. He was the second of four children of Matilda Andrades (July 28, 1934 – November 17, 2008) and Gérard Basquiat (1930 – July 7, 2013). He had two younger sisters: Lisane, born in 1964, and Jeanine, born in 1967. His father, Gérard Basquiat, was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and his mother, Matilde Basquiat, who was of Puerto Rican descent, was born in Brooklyn, New York. Matilde instilled a love for art in her young son by taking him to art museums in Manhattan and enrolling him as a junior member of the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Basquiat was a precocious child who learned how to read and write by age four and was a gifted artist. His teachers, such as artist Jose Machado, noticed his artistic abilities, and his mother encouraged her son’s artistic talent. By the age of 11, Basquiat was fully fluent in French, Spanish and English. In 1967, Basquiat started attending Saint Ann’s, an arts-oriented exclusive private school. He drew with Marc Prozzo, a friend from St. Ann’s; they together created a children’s book, written by Basquiat and illustrated by Prozzo. Basquiat became an avid reader of Spanish, French, and English texts and a more than competent athlete, competing in track events.


In September 1968, when Basquiat was about eight, he was hit by a car while playing in the street. His arm was broken and he suffered several internal injuries, and he eventually underwent a splenectomy. While he was recuperating from his injuries, his mother brought him the Gray’s Anatomy book to keep him occupied. This book would prove to be influential in his future artistic outlook. His parents separated that year and he and his sisters were raised by their father.

Jean-Michel with his sisters, circa 1967
Jean-Michel with his father, c. 1985

The family resided in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, for five years, then moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1974. After two years, they returned to New York City.
When he was 13, his mother was committed to a mental institution and thereafter spent time in and out of institutions. At 15, Basquiat ran away from home. He slept on park benches in Tompkins Square Park, and was arrested and returned to the care of his father within a week.

Jean-Michel’s father, Gérard Basquiat, years after his son’s death

Basquiat dropped out of Edward R. Murrow High School in the tenth grade and then attended City-As-School, an alternative high school in Manhattan home to many artistic students who failed at conventional schooling. His father banished him from the household for dropping out of high school and Basquiat stayed with friends in Brooklyn. He supported himself by selling T-shirts and homemade post cards.

One of Basquiat’s postcards

In 1976, Basquiat and friend Al Diaz began spray painting graffiti on buildings in Lower Manhattan, working under the pseudonym SAMO. The designs featured inscribed messages such as “Plush safe he think.. SAMO” and “SAMO as an escape clause”.

At the age of 17, in 1978, Basquiat worked for the Unique Clothing Warehouse, in their art department, at 718 Broadway in NoHo and at night he became “SAMO” painting his original graffiti art on neighborhood buildings. Unique’s founder Harvey Russack discovered Basquiat painting a building one night, they became friends, and he offered him a day job. On December 11, 1978, The Village Voice published an article about the graffiti. When Basquiat and Diaz ended their friendship, The SAMO project ended with the epitaph “SAMO IS DEAD”, inscribed on the walls of SoHo buildings in 1979.

SAMO (for “same old shit”) marked the witty sayings of a precocious and worldly teenage mind that, even at that early juncture, saw the world in shades of gray, fearlessly juxtaposing corporate commodity structures with the social milieu he wished to enter: the predominantly white art world. ”— Franklin Sirmans, In the Cipher: Basquiat and Hip Hop Culture


In 1979, the 18 year old Basquiat appeared on the live public-access television cable TV show TV Party hosted by Glenn O’Brien, and the two started a friendship. Basquiat made regular appearances on the show over the next few years.

That same year, Basquiat formed the noise rock band Test Pattern – which was later renamed Gray – which played at Arleen Schloss’s open space, “Wednesdays at A’s”, where in October 1979 Basquiat showed, among others, his SAMO color Xerox work. The band produced one album on Plush Safe Records, entitled “Shades Of.” Gray also consisted of Shannon Dawson, Michael Holman, Nick Taylor, Wayne Clifford and Vincent Gallo, and the band performed at nightclubs such as Max’s Kansas City, CBGB, Hurrah and the Mudd Club.

In 1980, Basquiat starred in O’Brien’s independent film Downtown 81, originally titled New York Beat.  Downtown 81 featured some of Gray’s recordings on its soundtrack.

That same year, Basquiat met Andy Warhol at a restaurant. Basquiat presented to Warhol samples of his work, and Warhol was stunned by Basquiat’s genius and allure. The two artists later collaborated.

Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat

Basquiat also appeared in the 1981 Blondie music video “Rapture,” in a role originally intended for Grandmaster Flash, as a nightclub disc jockey. (You can spot the young artist in the video at timestamp 1:50.)

Before his career as a painter began, he produced punk-inspired postcards for sale on the street, and became known for the political–poetical graffiti under the name of SAMO. On one occasion Basquiat painted his girlfriend’s dress with the words “Little Shit Brown”. He would often draw on random objects and surfaces, including other people’s property. The conjunction of various media is an integral element of Basquiat’s art. His paintings are typically covered with text and codes of all kinds: words, letters, numerals, pictograms, logos, map symbols, diagrams and more.


The early 1980s were Basquiat’s breakthrough years. In June 1980, Basquiat participated in The Times Square Show, a multi-artist exhibition sponsored by Collaborative Projects Incorporated (Colab) and Fashion Moda. Other artists in the show included David Hammons, Jenny Holzer, Lee Quiñones, Kenny Scharf and Kiki Smith. The show was held in a vacant building at 41st Street and Seventh Avenue, New York.

In September of the same year, Basquiat joined the Annina Nosei gallery and worked in a basement below the gallery toward his first one-man show, which took place in March 1981 with great success. Quickly thereafter, he was showing regularly alongside other Neo-expressionist artists including Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Francesco Clemente and Enzo Cucchi. He was represented in Los Angeles by the Gagosian gallery and throughout Europe by Bruno Bischofberger.

“Untitled,” 1981

In March 1982 he worked in Modena, Italy, and from November, Basquiat worked from the ground-floor display and studio space Larry Gagosian had built below his Venice, California, home and commenced a series of paintings for a 1983 show, his second at Gagosian Gallery, then in West Hollywood. He brought along his girlfriend, then unknown aspiring singer Madonna.

Gallerist and star-maker, Larry Gagosian in 2012

During this time he took considerable interest in the work that Robert Rauschenberg was producing at Gemini G.E.L. in West Hollywood, visiting him on several occasions and finding inspiration in the accomplishments of the painter.

Robert Rauschenberg’s “Mona Lisa,” 1982

In 1983, Basquiat produced a 12″ rap single featuring hip-hop artists Rammellzee and K-Rob. Billed as Rammellzee vs. K-Rob, the single contained two versions of the same track: “Beat Bop” on side one with vocals and “Beat Bop” on side two as an instrumental. The single was pressed in limited quantities on the one-off Tartown Record Company label. The single’s cover featured Basquiat’s artwork, making the pressing highly desirable among both record and art collectors.

Cover of “Beat Bop,” by Jean-Michel Basquiat

At the suggestion of Swiss dealer Bruno Bischofberger, Warhol and Basquiat worked on a series of collaborative paintings between 1983 and 1985. In the case of Olympic Rings (1985), Warhol made several variations of the Olympic five-ring symbol, rendered in the original primary colors. Basquiat responded to the abstract, stylized logos with his oppositional graffiti style. The collaborative show is still touring the world today, though smaller, as numerous works have been sold or are in museums.


Basquiat was known for often painting in expensive Armani suits and would even appear in public in the same paint-splattered clothes.


Basquiat’s canon revolves around single heroic figures: athletes, prophets, warriors, cops, musicians, kings and the artist himself. In these images the head is often a central focus, topped by crowns, hats, and halos. In this way the intellect is emphasized, lifted up to notice, privileged over the body and the physicality of these figures (i.e. black men) commonly represent in the world.” — Kellie Jones, Lost in Translation: Jean-Michel in the (Re)Mix


Fred Hoffman hypothesizes that underlying Basquiat’s sense of himself as an artist was his “innate capacity to function as something like an oracle, distilling his perceptions of the outside world down to their essence and, in turn, projecting them outward through his creative acts.” Additionally, continuing his activities as a graffiti artist, Basquiat often incorporated words into his paintings.


A middle period from late 1982 to 1985 featured multi-panel paintings and individual canvases with exposed stretcher bars, the surface dense with writing, collage and imagery. The years 1984–85 were also the main period of the Basquiat–Warhol collaborations, even if, in general, they were not very well received by the critics.

“Tenor,” 1985

A major reference source used by Basquiat throughout his career was the book Gray’s Anatomy, which his mother had given him while he was in the hospital at age seven. It remained influential in his depictions of internal human anatomy, and in its mixture of image and text. Other major sources were Henry Dreyfuss’ Symbol Sourcebook, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, and Brentjes’ African Rock Art.


Basquiat doodled often and some of his later pieces exhibited this; they were often colored pencil on paper with a loose, spontaneous, and dirty style much like his paintings. His work across all mediums displays a childlike fascination with the process of creating.


Like a DJ, Basquiat adeptly reworked Neo-expressionism’s clichéd language of gesture, freedom, and angst and redirected Pop art’s strategy of appropriation to produce a body of work that at times celebrated black culture and history but also revealed its complexity and contradictions.” — Lydia Lee


According to Andrea Frohne, Basquiat’s 1983 painting Untitled (History of the Black People) “reclaims Egyptians as African and subverts the concept of ancient Egypt as the cradle of Western Civilization”. At the center of the painting, Basquiat depicts an Egyptian boat being guided down the Nile River by Osiris, the Egyptian god of the earth and vegetation. On the right panel of the painting appear the words “Esclave, Slave, Esclave”. Two letters of the word “Nile” are crossed out and Frohne suggests that, “The letters that are wiped out and scribbled over perhaps reflect the acts of historians who have conveniently forgotten that Egyptians were black and blacks were enslaved.” On the left panel of the painting Basquiat has illustrated two Nubian-style masks. The Nubians historically were darker in skin color, and were considered to be slaves by the Egyptian people. Throughout the rest of the painting, images of the Atlantic slave trade are juxtaposed with images of the Egyptian slave trade centuries before. The sickle in the center panel is a direct reference to the slave trade in the United States, and slave labor under the plantation system. The word “salt” that appears on the right panel of the work refers to the Atlantic slave trade, as salt was another important commodity traded at that time.


Another of Basquiat’s pieces, Irony of Negro Policeman (1981), is intended to illustrate how African-Americans have been controlled by a predominantly Caucasian society. Basquiat sought to portray how complicit African-Americans have become with the “institutionalized forms of whiteness and corrupt white regimes of power” years after the Jim Crow era had ended. Basquiat found the concept of a “Negro policeman” utterly ironic. It would seem that this policeman should sympathize with his black friends, family, and ancestors, yet instead he was there to enforce the rules designed by “white society.” The Negro policeman had “black skin but wore a white mask”. In the painting, Basquiat depicted the policeman as large in order to suggest an “excessive and totalizing power”, but made the policeman’s body fragmented and broken. The hat that frames the head of the policeman resembles a cage, and represents how constrained the independent perceptions of African-Americans were at the time, and how constrained the policeman’s own perceptions were within white society. Basquiat drew upon his Haitian heritage by painting a hat that resembles the top hat associated with the gede family of loa, who embody the powers of death in Vodou.


However, Kellie Jones, in her essay Lost in Translation: Jean-Michel in the (Re)Mix, posits that Basquiat’s “mischievous, complex, and neologistic side, with regard to the fashioning of modernity and the influence and effluence of black culture” are often elided by critics and viewers, and thus “lost in translation.”

“Self Portrait,” 1983

The art historian Olivier Berggruen situates in Basquiat’s anatomical screen prints, titled Anatomy, an assertion of vulnerability, one which “creates an aesthetic of the body as damaged, scarred, fragmented, incomplete, or torn apart, once the organic whole has disappeared. Paradoxically, it is the very act of creating these representations that conjures a positive corporeal valence between the artist and his sense of self or identity.”


By 1986, Basquiat had left the Annina Nosei gallery, and was showing at the Mary Boone gallery in SoHo. On February 10, 1985, he appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine in a feature titled “New Art, New Money: The Marketing of an American Artist”. He was a successful artist in this period, but his growing heroin addiction began to interfere with his personal relationships.


When Andy Warhol died on February 22, 1987, Basquiat became increasingly isolated, and his heroin addiction and depression grew more severe. He made a sincere attempt at sobriety taking an extended trip to Maui, Hawaii, and for a while, it seemed he had beaten the demons. His health began to return, and those close to him say that he seemed happy.

Poloroid of Basquiat during his stay in Hawaii (photo credit: Paige Powell)

Unfortunately this was not to be the case for long, and the brilliant artist died on August 12, 1988, of a heroin overdose at his art studio at 57 Great Jones Street in Manhattan’s NoHo neighborhood. He was 27 years old. A plaque dedicating his life was placed on July 13, 2016 by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

From Basquiat’s last exhibition
1988

Jean-Michel Basquiat was interred in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, where Jeffrey Deitch made a speech at the graveside. Among those speaking at Basquiat’s memorial held at Saint Peter’s Church on November 3, 1988, were Ingrid Sischy who, as the editor of Artforum in the 1980s, got to know the artist well and commissioned a number of articles that introduced his work to the wider world. Suzanne Mallouk recited sections of A. R. Penck’s Poem for Basquiat and Fab 5 Freddy read a poem by Langston Hughes. The 300 guests included the musicians John Lurie and Arto Lindsay; the artist Keith Haring; the poet David Shapiro; Glenn O’Brien, a writer; Fab 5 Freddy and members of Basquiat’s band Gray. In memory of the late artist, Keith Haring created Pile of Crowns for Jean-Michel Basquiat (1988).

Created shortly before his own death, Basquiat created “Man Riding With Death,” in 1988
Haring’s tribute “Pile Of Crowns”

Major exhibitions of Basquiat’s work have included Jean-Michel Basquiat: Paintings 1981–1984 at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (1984), which traveled to the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, in 1985); the Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover (1987, 1989). The first retrospective to be held of the his work was the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art from October 1992 to February 1993. It subsequently traveled to the Menil Collection, Houston; the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Alabama, from 1993 to 1994. The catalog for this exhibition, edited by Richard Marshall and including several essays of differing styles, was a groundbreaking piece of scholarship into Basquiat’s work and still is a major source. Another exhibition, Basquiat, was mounted by the Brooklyn Museum, New York, in 2005, and traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. From October 2006 to January 2007, the first Basquiat exhibition in Puerto Rico took place at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR), produced by ARTPREMIUM, Corinne Timsit and Eric Bonici. Brooklyn Museum exhibited Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks in April–August 2015.

In May 2016, Basquiat’s Untitled had a record breaking sale at Christie’s selling at auction for $57,285,000.

“Untitled,” sold in 2016 for $57,285,000.00

 


Edited from:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Michel_Basquiat


Jean-Michel Basquiat

Digital collage portrait by TMLipp
Created for The Artist Birthday Series
December 22, 2016
(click image for full resolution)


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