Friday, December 4, 2015

Best of the Year: Basquiat's Retrospective at Art Gallery of Ontario, Spring Break

Advertised around Toronto street signs to this subway station, Jean-Michel Basquiat rained all over the vibrant city.
Jean-Michel Basquiat's "Now's the Time" retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario was an amazing spectacle, a treat for a Basquiat novice. I had always treasured Julian Schnabel's film starring Jeffrey Wright as the locc'ed 1980's beauty. Yes beauty. The man was a beautiful genius- a bonafide genius-- touching the world with his massive abstract expression meets graffiti street style diaries. He had a finesse in style, wearing suits and sporting a shaved head or thick locs twisted in suspenseful direction.During my spring break in March, I had the gracious opportunity to visit the AGO with a sweet dear friend. I learned more about Basquiat, further than what Google and Wikipedia could document. This introduction to viewing his work in the flesh unveiled meaningful marks, thickly applied shapes, and intimate trilingual language stories arranged purposely among the acrylic, oils, oil stick on found surfaces such as cardboard, scrap paper, and anti-art school canvas supports. From museums to private collections all around the globe, Basquiat's pieces of raw gritty honesty filled minds and hearts with a tenacious presence that stayed consistent throughout the course of walking through the massive exhibit. He lingered in between worlds-- the worlds of Picasso, Da Vinci, and other art history cannon men to the harsh abrasiveness one sees in the tough streets. Much like seeing the journals at Brooklyn Museum, AGO's display of Basquait's unique oeuvre stretched out tearful prose in painting and drawing form. The curators tied together civil rights events, featured Basquiat's family and those who have studied Basquiat, and stock footage videos of the young aerosol lover. Intense compositions articulated the stigma of racial tension, the raspy eloquence found in rapturous jazz notes, animated violence in ill-humored cartoons and comic strips, and deeply personal narrative about his very existence as an American black man.
While there were paintings, drawings, and sculpture, Roland Hagenberg's rare, very candid Basquiat photographs near Frank restaurant were displayed. The sophisticated black and white shots range from showcasing Basquiat's serious commitment to art, his stark intelligence, his overwhelming confidence, and his vulnerability.
Thus, I saw "Now's the Time" twice, lingering in a supreme validation that made my love for him blossom like fragrant flowers in a watered garden. Although solemn and silent, attached to walls, I heard his screams, his protests outlined in the strong, aggressive prowess of varied technical precision and powerful language.
And that incredible talent crowned my ardor with great sublime joy.

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