new-york

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

I’ve generally been a fan of Jean-Michel Basquiat, one of the few painters able to extend the graffiti issue of language from subway to gallery wall. Basquiat’s lexicon of diagrams, animals, anatomical parts, and “Sarno” crowns (to note only its most obvious elements) always seemed unusually broad in its conjunctive capacity; in its various manifestations, fused to a range of abstract pictorial marks, it seemed able to encompass much of the verve and jostling rhythm of the street. However, judging from Basquiat’s latest one-man show, that language has become slightly strained.

My comment requires qualification, for the problem with these works lies less in their elasticity of means than in the decorative function they’re increasingly forced to serve. There was too much here; often it seemed as though Basquiat had been required to churn out canvases purely through permutations and combinations

Sign-in to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for artforum.com? Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the October 1984 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.