Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks at the Brooklyn Museum
In this day and age, where racial tension is high and class-system oppression is a hot-button issue, it seems only fitting that the mind and work of neo-expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat should gain traction once again. Thanks to the Brooklyn Museum, the styling of Basquiat returns to the public eye in an exhibition showcasing his creation of art through notebooks of sketches.
Basquiat, who rose to prominence as a solo artist in the early 1980s, was a regular in New York City galleries throughout the decade; the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition is a dedication to this precise era of his life and career. It’s in this era of Basquiat’s work where the use of the composition notebook becomes a common practice, even to the point where the total number of notebooks in existence is still unknown. With a focal point on the notebooks he kept from 1980 to 1987, the show is a reflection of Basquiat’s artistic process.
It should be stressed again here that this is not a show of Basquiat art per se. There aren’t large collections of his greatest works or thematic tours of his career through specific pieces. Of course, this show has elements of it, but it really is a limited presence. The highlighted bulk of work on display is pages from his notebooks. The artwork surrounding it serves merely as an accent, magnifying how the elements and motifs of Basquiat’s earliest, sketchy stages come together into larger works of art.
The show feels a little incomplete, like a sketch of a greater design. Basquiat is an artist of colorful passion and unique stylisation, but his sketches are a shell of that same vividness. So when set against the typical white space of a generic museum exhibit, the whole thing leaves something to be desired.
That being said, and putting aesthetics aside, the exhibition is still a brilliant investigation into one of the art world’s most intriguing talents.
Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks is on at the Brooklyn Museum August 23rd 2015, for further information visit here.