Basquiat – Boom for Real – Barbican London

It’s the last day of the long awaited Basquiat solo retrospective seminal art show at the Barbican London.

Its 0850, and I can see that people already darting to the Barbican, so I take a quick snap, and head over to the main show.  One street away from the Barbican Centre, the first thing I see is a Banksy piece, with his typical striking flair for social commentary. The image illustrates two police officers, attempting to arrest the graphic image representing Basquiat.

Entering the Barbican Centre via the Silk street entrance I am confronted by a lengthy queue, already 200 people deep. (I never usually do queue). After a little time, we begin to move forward, doors open, and the line of awaiting audience are all marched up to the 3rd floor, where to my surprise, we had to line up again, to now purchase tickets. 40 minutes later…Finally I am in, and what a great day of true artistic inspiration. The creative forces that echoed with brilliance, colour, science, and so much emotion, and passion, was overwhelming!

Set over two floors, the show was a Biopic feast, including a feature film staring Basquiat, and several exclusive interviews. For the very first time I heard and saw Warhol appear to display vulnerability, and even a sense of insecurity, knowing that Basquait had outgrown his shadow, and came with a whole other energy. Basquiat remained very humble, and even protective of Warhol.

I could not help the feeling of thinking my work rate has to increase, as the man himself, never actually stopped creating in one form or the other; paining on everything, creating tags such as SOMO (His take on, “Same Old Shit”), followed by his rendition of poetry, statements, or reflections.

After floating through the 14 sections laid out of this well curated show, made possible by the support of both private collection, and work held in various trusts, I was immersed into the mans process, and dilemma’s.. This gave me a true sense of his work rate, his passion, his tenacity, focus, and research, all of which he was stirring up, fuelling, brandishing, and expressing, symbolically, poetically, in abstraction, and in your face. Like several streams of consciousness seamlessly forming as one river, together they became his stream of expression, colourful, vivid, alchemy. It was as if wanted to touch the sky, but instead ended up literally re-encoding a new language, while simultaneously asserting his cultural and artistic identity, overtly and directly. His boldness was so direct, it was brilliant. For example, The King Of The Zulu’s series, dominated the space on the lower floor, serving as its own totem, as if it represented some form of ancient deity, protecting his work even in the after life!

The deeper I gazed, the more it revealed to me that Basquiat was no ordinary guy, he was a shamanic artist, struggling to keep one foot in this world, while trying to check the present, to engage the narrative, or more importantly to disrupt it! To appreciate this experience, I decided to stop trying to think everything through, but to instead simply feel. I could then actually see the music in his frequency; his ability to paint via frequencies, while channelling the Gnostic alchemy selected from his very deep encyclopaedia of knowledge and books versed about ancient symbolism, including The Spirit, Monotheism, The Anatomy, Lost Language of symbolism, and African Rock Art. These were just a few of the pallets/ tomes Basquait absorbed from and utilised to charm his amazing work.

Although he came across as quite a soft touch, gentle and non aggressive, he was totally rebellious, and knew how to not only pick a fight, but how to make sure he won it too. Competitive he certainly was, and not afraid to put his two fingers up to the artistic community, who was always trying to undermine his talent, in one way or the other. This can also be seen in the self portrait series, where you can see how he choose to respond to a particular writer by the name of Rene Richards, who wrote: “One must become the iconic representation of oneself in this town (NY)”. The self portraits that he them used to address this topic, was brilliant, as he could have easily backed down and shied away, but instead he went totally with it, and went Black, and so much so that you could sense that he finally found a way to express his cultural self, without getting caught up in the stereotype. He embraced this relevance, which really did put the mirror up to the art establishment at that time. I am sure still to date, similar issues are very much the same!

To have been able to experience this show, was like having your brain rewired and re-engaged with art science, combined with an ancient gnostic alchemy, knowing his gift was always to make the connection, between life, art and death.

Many who attended this exhibition, may soon come to realize, that they sublimely smitten by the atomic Dog //- God 0 =Time + Joy…

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