The In Word Only exhibition of the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat presents paintings, drawings, and notebooks that feature only Basquiat’s written words.
The artist was well known for large, colorful works dense with gesture, collage, figures, symbols and words, but this exhibition will be the first to exclusively feature Basquiat’s unique and significant use of language. The exhibition includes works from the artist’s entire career, dating from 1979 to 1988 (the year of his death).
For Jean-Michel Basquiat, the meaning of a word was not necessarily relevant to its usage; he employed words as abstract objects that can be seen as configurations of straight and curved lines that come together to form a visual pattern. The artist also employed words and phrases that are loaded with meaning and reference, in particular those words related to racism, black history, and black musicians and athletes.
Basquiat’s word paintings and drawings often appear to be a secret, coded language that the artist devised and left for the viewer to attempt to decipher.
He readily acknowledged his manipulation of words, stating: “I cross out words so you will see them more; the fact that they are obscured makes you want to read them.”
However, Basquiat’s casual, random manner is deceptive, because on closer inspection his choice of words often coalesce into intelligent, meaningful, and cohesive thoughts and subjects.
The majority of the works in In Word Only have never been exhibited or published. The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat has generously lent a number of important paintings and drawings, in addition to several of the artist’s private notebooks.
Basquiat continually wrote and drew in notebooks, and used them as a laboratory for experimentation and personal expression. These rare notebooks offer a rare and fascinating insight into the Basquiat’s aesthetic and creative process. Additional works have been borrowed from private collections in the United States and Europe. Through March 26th, 2005
In Word Only coincides with two major retrospective exhibitions of Basquiat’s work at the Brooklyn Museum, New York, March 11-June 5, 2005; and the Museo d’Arte Moderna, Lugano, Switzerland, March 19-June 19, 2005.
Find it: Cheim & Read
427 West 25th St.
New York, NY 10001
Get info: (212) 242-7727
Find art events in other cities, in the FEB/MAR 2005 issue of Arte Six.
Related booklist: "Basquiat", "Downtown 81", "Jean Michel Basquiat", "Life Doesn't Frighten Me", "Basquiat", "Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art", "Basquiat" (catalog, Trieste exhibition), "Widow Basquiat"