Basquiat’s independent perspective guided the provocative, intense, and Neo-expressionist way in which he painted. Also described as Bad Painting, like the works Picasso executed late in life, Basquiat’s oeuvre brought figuration, subjective expression, and narrative back into favour. And like Picasso, the American artist held an interest in African art: “Picasso arrived at primitive art in order to give of its nobility to Western art. And I arrived at Picasso to give his nobility to the art called ‘primitive.’” Here, Basquiat sketches in a set of teeth as if they were pebbles on the beach of his seaside landscape. The torn and layered edges of the paper are elegantly transgressive. A careful examination of the surface of the work enables the viewer to discover a piece of kleenex pasted on the sheet of paper, and even the broken head of a nail. This brilliant collage shows the sense of colour—a sparing use of dark red and garish patches of various shades of blue—and the somewhat clumsy grace with which the artist could put together a painting.
© Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / SOCAN (2021)