Jean-Michel Basquiat⁣⁣ Riding with Death⁣⁣ 1988⁣⁣ “In a

8/14/2021, 3:26:37 PM
Jean-Michel Basquiat⁣⁣ Riding with Death⁣⁣ 1988⁣⁣ “In a relatively sparse and simple composition compared to the frenetic, colorful explosions he is most known for, he depicted an African-American figure riding a white skeleton against a textured beige background. As with all of Basquiat’s works, this relatively simple composition is layered with symbolism and references to culture, history and society. ⁣⁣ Against a flat, brown background, Basquiat has painted a dark-skinned male figure, who sits on top of a skeleton on all fours. The skeleton’s head is turned to the viewer and its empty, crossed out eyes seem to pierce straight through us. The figure on top seems to be decomposing, part outline, part stick figure, in agitated movement.⁣⁣ This unsettling image is full of racial undercurrents, social references and sarcasm. The composition itself is thought to be inspired by a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci titled Illustration for his thoughts on Virtue and Envy in which he depicted a naked woman sat on a skeleton on all fours. Basquiat’s style was often described as “primitive” and “naive” by critics and here he seems to be playing to the stereotype by creating an image that resembles cave paintings or African tribal art more than the Western definition of figurative painting. In doing so he fills this painting with nuanced references to race, racism and society, opening up a dialogue between the historical and the contemporary. By placing the figure on top, whose skin color suggests it could be an autobiographical reference, he creates an image of a reversal of power structures. However, by placing this figure on top of a skeleton, an image of death, he seems to also suggest a sense of doom or disappointment and a lack of optimism for the future of the society in which he lives. ⁣⁣ This is one of the last works Basquiat painted before he committed suicide and thus seems to suggest a strong link with his personal outlook on life and the state of the world he lived in.”⁣⁣ #basquiat #ridingwithdeath #jeanmichelbasquiat #basquiatart #neoexpressionist

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