For this assignment, I chose a neo-expressionist piece by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Known for his abstract, largely avant-garde works, Jean-Michel curates elements of racial blackness and surreal color into his pieces. This particular piece, mirrors the style and energy of a graffiti painting, kind of an artistic rebellion. It ties into our discussion on blackness as much of black literature is considered a kind of civil disobedience because it was only a couple of generations ago that black people couldn’t read.
Graffiti has been “gentrified” over the last few years, meaning that it’s been given a cultural, edgy twist and white artists are being commissioned to do what artistically capable artists of color were being arrested for. The post-mortem reverence Basquiat’s works have received over the last twenty years is inspiring to any young Black artist who fears making abstract and unapologetic social commentary in there art for fear they will not be accepted into the mainstream art community. Art that’s this bold and bright and transparent in its celebration of blackness is a glimmering star in a sea of a whitewashed art community.
Moreover, Blackness is often excluded from fantastical representations in any medium of art. It is more believable, to some people, that there are people in movies who can fly on brooms and go to a school that teaches magic and has children fight wars than it is that one of the main characters could be Black. Black representation is typically rooted in realism– images of gory slavery porn, a civil rights depiction that actually happened. It is rare in art that we get to escape and dream and be magic. The oppression of Black people renders many of us resilient, but that is not our exclusive, monolithic personality trait. There’s definitely a effervescent engagement of Black people here.