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Santo 4
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Santo 4
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Santo 4

US
NY, US
US

About the item

The work Basquiat began in late 1982 signaled a new phase of intensity and complexity that focused on black subjects and social inequities and incorporates a growing vocabulary of popular images and charactersThe effect was raw, askew, handmadea primitive-looking object that recalled African shields, Polynesian navigation devices, Spanish devotional objects, and bones that have broken through the surface skin. (Richard Marshall, Repelling Ghosts, in Exh. Cat., Malaga, Palacio Episcopal de Malaga, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1996, p. 140) Emblazoned with frenzied, gestural marks and urgent annotations that reflect the spontaneity of graffiti, Santo 4 is a significant milestone in the inauguration of Basquiats certified status as an international art star. It is universally acknowledged that 1982 was the most significant year in the artist's tragically short yet enduringly prolific career. Painted in this seminal moment and belonging to a small number of captivating works created on roughly hewn canvas supports, Santo 4 is a preeminent articulation of Basquiats expressionistic force, adept combination of cultural references and impactful iconography.\nCreated the year after Basquiats breakthrough participation in the now-legendary New York/New Wave exhibition at the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Centre, Santo 4 is the perfect encapsulation of the artists transition from street to studio. Whilst self-organized exhibitions such as the Lower Manhattan Drawing Show at the Mudd Club gave crucial exposure for the artist, his breakthrough participation in the P.S.1 show and success in the show Public Address at the Annina Nosei Gallery gave him the critical success that was to bring about a huge turning point in his career. Indeed, it was in this year that Nosei became Basquiat's primary dealer and staged a critically acclaimed solo show of the artist's work. Using Nosei's Prince Street gallery basement as his studio, Basquiat forged influential links with Bruno Bischofberger and Larry Gagosian. Subsequently, his rise to stardom was astoundingly accelerated: exhibited alongside Gerhard Richter, Joseph Beuys, and Cy Twombly he became the youngest artist to have ever participated in Documenta in Kassel, heralding 1982 as the definitive year in his sudden yet pervasive invasion of the art world. Looking back on this astonishing year, Basquiat recalled, "I made the best paintings ever." (Jean-Michel Basquiat cited in Richard Marshall and Jean-Louis Prat, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Paris 2000, p. 202)\nNot only did 1982 bring about extraordinary critical success for Basquiat, it also saw the birth of a celebrated corpus of works stretched over jutting corner supports and exposed stretcher bars. Basquiat and his assistant at the time set about crafting stretchers and frames out of a whole host of found materials such as carpet tacks, rope, canvas and wooden mouldings. Insouciant and purposefully rudimentary, these structures physically dismantle and imbue the grand tradition of painting on canvas with the tribal and primitive, while also referencing a grander art historical tradition of assemblage and collage most influentially advanced in postwar American art by figures such as Robert Rauschenberg.\nWhile the evocation of primitive art very much alludes to Basquiats ethnic heritage - born to Puerto Rican and Haitian parents and brought up in Brooklyn, Basquiat's art habitually draws on his triangular cultural inheritance the artist was also intensely influenced by Picasso for whom primitivism was an antidote to the conservatism of the academies. Similarly, Basquiat finds in primitivism a correlative mode for expressing an overtly contemporary angst simultaneously tied to his own racial identity and his position as an artist responding to the cool minimalism that permeated the gallery scene in Manhattan during the early 1980s.\nDominated by a large skeletal figure surrounded by a medley of scribbled marks and scrawled annotations emblematic of Basquiat's polemic urban iconography Santo 4 is demonstrative of the very best of the artists celebrated practice. His use of the iconic skeleton motif is both formally and symbolically crucial. Whilst the skull acutely references modernist abstraction and Picassos engagement with African art, it also engages with Basquiats own identity as a black subject seeking expression within a seemingly white-washed art world. As surmised by cultural theorist Dick Hebidge " in the reduction of line into its strongest, most primary inscriptions, in that peeling of the skin back to the bone, Basquiat did us all a service by uncovering (and recapitulating) the history of his own construction as a black American male." (Dick Hebidge, Welcome to the Terrordome: Jean-Michel Basquiat and the Dark Side of Hybridity, in Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1993, p. 65) Reduced to its skeletal framework the figure also purports Basquiats scientific interest in the anatomical makeup of human beings, a subject that had fascinated the artist from an early age. His mother gave him a copy of Grays Anatomy, when, after being hit by a car at the age of seven, he spent a month recovering in hospital. The anecdotal genesis of this interest was further substantiated when Basquiat discovered Leonardo da Vinci's pioneering studies of the human body. Furthermore, the rich assemblage of caricatured faces, arrows and scribbled phrases, which include a childlike sketch of an airplane in the left centre of the composition, recalls the urban iconography of the artist's SAMO days. Ubiquitous to the metropolitan environment of New York, crudely articulated images of cars and planes recur throughout his early work. Along with the words Tokyo, South Korea and Peking, the plane contributes to the global mood that pervades the present work and concurrently symbolises the artists growing international success.\nRife with Basquiats rich, multi-faceted iconography, Santo 4 imports a dense narrative steeped in symbolic potency. Belonging to Basquiats trailblazing group of stretcher paintings, it reflects the nascent global excitement surrounding the artist at the time and acts as a bold proclamation of his inauguration into art history. Rene Ricard, one of the artists most notorious critics, singled out this revolutionary body of work and proclaimed:  For a while it looked as if the very early stuff was primo, but no longer. Hes finally figured out a way to make a stretcher that is so consistent with the imagery they do look like signs, but signs for a product modern civilisation has no use for. (Rene Ricard cited in Phoebe Hoban, Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art, London 2008, p. 105)\nSigned, titled and dated 82 on the reverse
US
NY, US
US

medium

Acrylic, oilstick and paper collage on canvas mounted on tied wood supports

creator

Basquiat, Jean-Michel

dimensions

36 by 36 in. 91.4 by 91.4 cm.

literature

Richard D. Marshall and Jean-Louis Prat, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 3rd Ed., Vol. II, Paris, 2000, p. 122, no. 5, illustrated in color (as Untitled)

provenance

Baron John J. Goossens, Belgium Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2003

signedDate

Signed, titled and dated 82 on the reverse

artist_range_end

1988

artist_range_start

1960

creator_nationality_dates

1960 - 1988


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

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