Hollywood Africans In Front Of The Chinese Theater With Footprints Of Movie Stars
23 color screenprint
38 1/2 x 84 in.
Artist’s Proof (A.P.) of 15
Certified authentic, signed, dated and numbered on verso by Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux of the Jean-Michel Basquiat Estate
About This Work:
In less than a decade the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat went from being a teenage graffiti writer to an international art star; he was dead of a drug overdose at age twenty-seven. A legend in his own lifetime.
Basquiat’s meteoric success and overnight burnout were an instant art-world myth; his brief career spanned the giddy ’80s art boom and epitomized its outrageous excess, from its art dealers to its drug dealers, from its clubs to its galleries, from Madonna to Warhol.
Basquiat was very fearful of the unfavorable racial reality in America, and saw himself as in no small amount of danger. These feelings often presented themselves in Basquiat’s work, which was typically socially and politically charged. His paintings were highly symbolic in nature and often focused on what he saw as intrinsic dichotomies, such as the wealthy versus the impoverished or integration versus segregation.
The subject of this impressive artwork is related to the widely known 1983 artwork Hollywood Africans, currently owned by the Whitney Museum of American Art. It depicts Basquiat with friends, the artists Toxic and Rammellzee. Toxic is the figure on the left, Rammellzee is the central face (as it can be seen by the green letters RMLZ on top of the head) and Basquiat is the right figure, as it can also be deduced from the typical shape of Basquiat’s hair.
Hollywood Africans represents a commentary on the stereotyping and marginalizing of African Americans in the entertainment industry. This theme led these three artists to coin the term and refer to themselves as the “Hollywood Africans”. Furthermore, this is a very current theme, it has even been the controversy of last night’s Oscars ceremonies, where several black actors and actresses have emphasized the necessity of equal rights and wages in the movie industry.
In this work, Basquiat challenges the art world by merging academic and “primitive” through his neo-expressionist style, which is recognizable by some stylistic choices: for example, when he chooses to represent his teeth not by drawing them but by writing the word TEETH, which is graphically very similar to what can be a a set of teeth. We can also notice his typical calligraphy, tough gesture and shrill colors.
This is a very important work. It is a very large, moving, biographical, historical account based on the artist’s life and the recurrent issues that surrounded him during his time, and which continue to linger on in today’s time.