Kukje Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of Jean-Michel Basquiat opening February 14th. Sometimes dubbed the black Picasso of American Art because of his incredible output of masterworks, Basquiat has come to be seen as an icon of his generation during a dynamic period known as Neo-Expressionism. Highly successful from a very early age, Basquiat had a prolific eight-year career until his untimely death at the age of 27. This is Kukje's second exhibition of this seminal artist presenting a broad survey of his iconic work made during a major historical period in the art scene of the 1980s in the US, reflective of the emergence of the counter cultural and the socio-politics of the time. His paintings are characterized by eclectic references to historical black heroes (such as highly successful Africa-Americans including Charlie Parker, a jazz musician, and Hank Aaron, a baseball player), comic books, anatomy, graffiti, and issues of race. He was also able to incorporate his autobiography into his work, infuse his paintings with symbolic text and poetry, and powerful socio-political messages.
Basquiat swiftly rose to fame when he emerged in the New York art scene in the 1980s at a young age. He has been compared to masters of Modern and Contemporary Art (including Pablo Picasso, Jean Dubuffet, Cy Twombly, and Robert Rauschenberg), but Basquiat received critical acclaim in both America and Europe for his uniqueness and ground-breaking work which combined text and imagery, despite his lack of formal arts training. Some seminal pieces on view in the exhibition reference a personal trauma he experienced having been hit by a car at the age of 7. It was during his recuperation from spleen removal surgery that his mother gave him a copy of the medical text Gray’s Anatomy which would later inform his lifelong interest in anatomy and also provides a good example of the diverse influences for Basquiat’s development of a new visual language which transcended the traditional vocabulary of art.
Although the span of his career was brief, Basquiat is celebrated as one of the most dynamic and original artists of the late twentieth century. He was able to fuse together disparate elements drawn from his autobiography, black heroes, comics, anatomy, graffiti, symbols and iconography with themes such as money and capital, racism and death, composed with his original way of incorporating text. Basquiat’s inspiration is diverse and the themes he explored are difficult to define into definitive boundaries but his usage of repeated imageries and texts reveal his deep-rooted interests and concerns.