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Untitled: Jean-Michel Basquiat

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    Untitled: Jean-Michel Basquiat

                The untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquait is much like that of graffiti because it is colorful and primitive.  In fact the painting has childlike qualities that would make one think that an untrained artist was at work with this particular piece.  However, on a deeper level, it is obvious that Basquiat was successful in his attempt to symbolize life on the streets of New York, his hometown.  There is a central figure of a man of blue, red, black, and white.  He is much larger than the buildings in the paintings and he looks as if he is a robot.  His hands are thrown up into the air as if he is fearful or he has given up hope.  The buildings behind and beside him are chaotic in form.  They are of dull blue, gold, and white colors that blend into each other.  The buildings are also covered in graffiti and other markings that make them appear dirty.  The cosmic realm above the man’s head is also chaotic as if the world and the heavens have gone mad.

                The medium of the untitled work is canvas, acrylic, oil, and spray paint.  Basquait probably chose these materials to give the impression of the street and the graffiti which is the art of the people.  I think that he chose canvas because it is receptive to the types of paint that he used.  The acrylic was used because of the vividness of the colors.  The blues and reds are especially crisp to convey the reality of life on the streets of New York.  Oil was chosen because of the durability.  Spray paint would have to be used in some way if Basquiat were to completely convey the feel of street graffiti.  Again, he was going for reality for the feel of the painting.

                The type of art of the untitled piece by Basquiat is graffiti even though it is not on a wall or other surface that is prominently in a public place.  Most graffiti makes a statement about life for the people that live in a particular area and the Basquiat’s untitled painting displays the chaotic, ugly, meaningless world of the people of the street.  The subject of the painting symbolizes the aloneness of the man and how he must be powerful enough to fight his own battles.  Graffiti is usually painted with spray paint and is a form of art of pop culture.

                The lines used in the untitled work are vertical even though they are not straight.  The uplifted hands and arms, the legs, and the elongated body of the man draw the eye upward.  The lines of the buildings also draw the eyes in a vertical way.  Basquiat uses light and shadows only around the subject.  He does this to give the large man depth and to draw him away from the buildings and the man made things of the city.  The colors that he uses are polychromatic.  The use of different colors are needed since he employs dull and faded shades to enhance the feeling that the man’s life is dull.  The composition of the painting is that of a quadrant.  There are obviously four equal sections in the background of the man, and he is centered in the piece.

                The untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat is not appealing to me because of its beauty, but because of its ugliness.  I feel that it is real and real life is not always pretty.  That does not mean that it is bad, but it there is much more drab and ugly than good.  I do appreciate that he made the subject as prominent as he did to allow that the man does have control of his destiny even though he is ready to give up, he still has what it takes to conquer.  What drew my attention to the painting was that on each side of the man’s legs is an area that looks as if someone tried to erase something that was a mistake.  I feel that the mistakes made in life can be marked out.  It is still obvious that something was there, but they are gone and covered.

    Works Cited

    Basquiat, Jean-Michel. Untitled, 1981.


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