Editor: Jose Morales
New York City, NY – The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is currently holding a thematic exhibition of work by the critically acclaimed artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988). The exhibition, which is also supplemented with work by some of his contemporaries, examines the development of Basquiat’s career through the lens of his identity, and his role during the cultural activism movement that took place in New York City during the early 1980s.
‘Basquiat’s “Defacement”: The Untold Story,’ is organized by the guest curator, Chaédria LaBouvier, and is being held from June 21 to November 6, 2019. Approximately twenty paintings, prints, and essays by Basquiat and fellow artists compose the exhibition, with its starting point being ‘The Death of Michael Stewart.’ Created by Basquiat in 1983, it memorializes the fate of the young, black artist at the hands of New York City transit police. Originally painted on one of the walls of Keith Haring’s studio, it has seldom been exhibited to the public eye.
The presentation of this work aims to examine Basquiat’s exploration of black identity, and his efforts to create a language of empowerment while protesting police brutality. His aim to craft a unique aesthetic to express empowerment is manifested in his work with the use of crowns. These crowns being a symbol for the canonization of historical black figures.
Archival materials in the exhibition related to Stewart’s passing include prints and paintings made by other artists in response to his loss, the criminal trial that followed, and the prosecution that saw the police officers involved in the case charged in the death of the young artist. The work exhibited is a testimonial to the spirit of solidarity amongst the community of artists at the time of Stwart’s death, and the years of cultural activism that followed. Years that also became the stage to the rise of the art market, the AIDS crisis, and persistent racial tension in New York City. – GM