Bursting forth from the canvas in a combustive palette of scarlet red, dusky pink, vermillion and fluorescent yellow, Untitled is an intuitive, gestural maelstrom from the very height of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s practice. Undertaken in 1981 and formerly owned by the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Untitled is one of the artist’s earliest masterpieces, marrying the gritty urbanism of his street graffiti with his raw and guttural symbolism. In the centre of the monumental composition stands an imposing, near life-size human figure, arms stretched overhead in some valedictory posture. Rough-hewn, the character is part self-portrait, reflecting the artist’s short, close-cropped hair at the time, and part boxing legend, alluding to those mighty African-American champions Sugar Ray Robinson, Casius Clay and Joe Louis. Sanctified in Basquiat’s pantheon of black sporting stars, the figure is crowned with a halo of scrawled, meandering paint: yellow, black and white like some radiant effigy or sacrificial martyr. He stands in as a proxy for those marginalised in contemporary America, making an incisive comment on the struggles for ethnic equality and integration. The face itself is characteristically crude; a primitive mask-like rendering with widened eyes that bore into the viewer like two rounded gun barrels. The gritted teeth, squared jaw and x-ray torso offer a disquieting glimpse into the troubled mind of this great enfant maudit. At the same time, the eye marvels at the acerbic palette, peripatetic scrawls and potent imagery, woven together on a staggering scale with more than a stroke of genius.
(via Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) | Untitled | Post-War & Contemporary Art Auction | 1980s, Paintings | Christie’s)
Can someone set up a Tumblr with nothing but effervescent auction-house art descriptions? These things are collectible in their own right.