By Miracle RodriguezThe Basquiat exhibit currently showcased at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts provides insight into the confused, yet interesting life of the artist Jean Michel Basquiat.
Basquiat was born Dec. 22, 1960, in Brooklyn, NY. With a Haitian father and a Puerto Rican mother, Basquiat was raised in a lower middle-class household. His parents were profound Catholics and tried to instill their beliefs in their son by sending him to Catholic school at an early age. Basquiat was kicked out of this school for oppositional views of "not believing in God." However, he used various aspects of Catholicism in his later paintings.
As a teenager without any formal training Basquiat experimented with his passion by painting graffiti art on the sides of buildings and subways in the lower east side of Manhattan. The work is still easily identifiable because even then he signed his art with his tag name "Samo," which means "same old, same old." Basquiat's work on the streets gained instant critical acclaim and attracted the attention of influential artists and art dealers.
The controversial graffiti artist had the privilege of working alongside Andy Warhol, the well-recognized artist who was extremely influential with the pop art movement. Warhol was famous for his silk-screened commercial imagery. He and Basquiat collaborated on several types of these paintings. Basquiat would contribute freehand art silk-screened images. The two admired each other's work and became close friends. They collaborated on almost one hundred paintings, some can be viewed in this exhibit.
Some may feel the retrospective collection is a bit challenging to interpret, but this was Basquiat's objective. He used a technique coined "suggestive coherence," which displays images that are intentionally confusing in order to capture the viewer's attention for a longer amount of time. The Daros Suite, a group of thirty-two drawings on paper, demonstrates this method.
Noticeably many on-lookers spent more time at this part of the exhibit. Basquiat painted on canvases of all sizes, mainly concentrating on murals. He used various rials such as acrylic paint, oils, spray paint, ink and crayon. The expressionistic paintings incorporate various themes - cartoon, religion, skeletal figures, famous singers, and mortality. Basquiat's work displays lots of color and the excessive use of words. Sometimes words may fill the entire canvas leaving the audience searching for a true meaning.
Three fascinating paintings in the Basquiat exhibit were Eroica, Eroica I and Eroica II. They represented one of Basquiat's most intriguing themes, mortality. He began these works after his good friend, Warhol, passed away. Basquiat appeared to be obsessed with death being inevitable. Ironically, he passed away only months after their completion from a heroine overdose at the age of 28.
The exhibition will be on view at the Caroline Wiess Law Building, located at 1001 Bissonett St., through February 12. Admission is $3.50 for students with a student I.D.