Shark Toof on the Edge: Live and in person.

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TAMPA – On a mild, Wednesday, October night, many of the regular faces gathered at the rooftop bar of the Epicurean Hotel at Edge Social Drinkery. It’s fun to come up with personas while people-watching. The businesswoman in town to review local corporate strategy, the law clerks gossiping about the partners, the athlete’s wives, with athletes in tow, intent on kid-free socializing, the sous-chef, the detective, the realtor, the life coach, etc… All unwinding and enjoying the carefully crafted libations on offer.

But there were some new faces in the crowd this night, and they had come for one particular purpose. That purpose was an imposing black canvas, spotlit near the front door, that couldn’t help but grab the attention of everyone who entered, including the regulars.

The fact that the artist himself was on site, spraying some finishing touches to the canvas, may also have drawn some attention, but the piece itself was certainly a stunner. A massive red shark appeared to be emerging from the dark waters of the canvas background. The mere visual suggestion of that infamous animal can strike fear in a man like an icicle to the heart, and this portrayal seemed to have an eerie kind of intrinsic spirit. One that made it feel like more than just paint on canvas, and offered something greater than just a lizard-brain fear response. It emitted a kind of inner strength, the kind that can be transferred to the viewer in a sort of empowering way.

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And that is the specialty of the Los Angeles based artist Shark Toof. His (much) larger-than life sized murals have been grabbing the attentions of all who come across them, and gaining him global recognition along the way. Tampa Bay is familiar with his massive piece covering a back side of the State Theatre in St. Petersburg, and his mural in East Coast’s Eau Gallie Arts District (EGAD) is also a local favorite.

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Shark Toof mural in EGAD.

This night at Edge was a special event put on by the Tampa gallery Cass Contemporary, on South MacDill, to promote their show “Red Everything,” a solo exhibition featuring new works by Shark Toof. The exhibit runs through December 30, 2016. (with a short break for ArtWeek Miami, where Shark Toof is also on view at their booth in the Aqua Art Fair).

When the artist took a break from painting and removed his gloves and respirator safety mask, a man approached him immediately, with cocktail in hand and was overheard asking about the work: “So… like, what’s the concept here?’

After a short moment of contemplation, Shark Toof replied: “The concept is…  Shark.”

Not deterred by the minimalist answer, the man continued the conversation and seemed genuinely interested in acquiring the painting. After he began speaking with a gallery representative I took my own opportunity to ask a few questions of the artist who’s been a favorite of mine for several years now.

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L: What can you tell me about this particular piece?

ST: I love the forms, there’s a lot to discover in there. It’s incredible when all the right circumstances come together and you do the thing that you envisioned, and this piece fucking rocks! I mean, it’s really sexy! I guess there’s always a surface level of interpretation, but there’s so much more texture and things to discover within the piece and that’s the beauty of this piece.

L: I heard you say you kind of want to keep this painting? Do you always feel that way about a canvas when it’s done?

ST:  I don’t really mind when pieces are acquired because it’s going to someone who loves it and it speaks to them. That’s the most important part. When I purchase art it’s because it speaks to me. I don’t gravitate towards polished work, I like to see the hand (of the artist), I like to see if he was troubled, worried or struggling.

L: Will you use this piece as inspiration for other, larger works?

ST: Probably not, each battle is it’s own unique situation.

L: You’ve obviously been in St. Pete before, is this just your second time working in the Tampa Bay area? What are your impressions of it?

ST: This is my third time back here. I love it. All i can say is: Weekie Wachee – done! Next up is Sunken Gardens I think.

L: So I saw some Shark Toof stickers up around St. Pete.

ST: I don’t know anything about that.

L: Ha, Ok, well have you done any other street work in the area?

ST: Well, um,… that’s for you to discover. Treasure hunt.

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Ok, so I’m always on the lookout now. Haven’t seen any other sharks lurking around here yet. Let me know if you’ve come across any.

In the mean time I’m off to Miami for Art Week. Hope to post some more Shark Toof and other highlights from Cass Contemprary and the rest of the circus there this weekend. There’s so much going on there I’ll never be able to fit it all into my little dinghy of a blog. I think I’m going to need a bigger boat.

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ALL TEXT AND PHOTOS BY LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN

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On the Street in: Denver

DENVER 2016 ~ On a short trip to Denver, Colorado back in April, I took some time to wonder the streets and captured some of the vibrant street art scene there.

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I stayed on E. Colfax near Park Avenue and the first thing I noticed right off-the-bat was the strong sticker game going on there. Being a big sticker fan myself, I got a little obsessed trying to document all the slaps. Every sign, newspaper box, dumpster and drainpipe were plastered with plenty of great sticker work.

Names like MESR, INVIZ, SPB (Silly Pink Bunny / Jeremy Fish), YESM (tribute?), AEKS and HB9, led me from sign to sign.

YESM ? (tribute?) WKT, EMT

INVIZ, FTSK – Label 228

IMOK (If Mother Only Knew) – Jive

SPB (Silly Pink Bunny / Jeremy Fish)

FTSK Label 228 & Hello my name is BERT

Some nice 228 Labels, hand styles and graphics were seen in some out-of-the way places too.

Then I made my way over to the Larimer Street area near 27th St. where there are tons of sanctioned murals but even more unsanctioned stuff. There are two alleyways on either side of Larimer St. that are chock-full of tags, murals, wheatpastes, throwies, and just about anything else you can think of.

@ElleStreetArt

Trashbird, Lomax and??

One of my favorite discoveries there was the “Kwiatkowski Press” prints. A project by Brian Bradley, working under the name Frank Kwiatkowski, he carves his designs on sections of old traffic cones to make the prints. I saw at least five of them up on walls and other surfaces. He has a very unique style that reminds me of the raw and revolutionary work of Emory Douglas in the 1970s.  Kwiatkowski often centers his work around the healthcare industrial complex and his struggles in dealing with diabetes.

Kwiatkowski Press

                       

Another wonderful discovery was the work of Koko Bayer (@kokonofilter). The grandchild of groundbreaking Modern Bauhaus Artist Herbert Bayer, Koko’s project “brings his work back to life” by reproducing images and getting them up out in the streets, and adding a contemporary twist here and there. Now a whole new generation can be introduced to his masterworks through this collaboration that defies the bounds of time and mortality.

Koko Bayer also documents the weathering of the pieces over time.

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While walking through one of the alleys I was surprised to see a huge piece by one of my longtime favorite artists: GATS (Graffiti Against the System). @GATSPTV

I first came across the work of GATS while visiting ROME in 2010. The East Bay artist has one of the most recognizable styles on the streets. This double-faced piece behind The Meadowlark Bar music venue was so rad, I did my best to move the dumpsters out of the way to get a full shot, but the left one was full of cooking oil, so it was no-go.

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So I shot this Impossible Project / Polaroid of one face.

There was waaay too much wonderful stuff to mention all of it in this post. So I’ll show a few more here, then you can click the link at the bottom of the page (or here) if you’d like to flip through my Flickr Gallery of 80 photos.

CORPSE ART (@c0rpse___)

YEN34

OhYeah !!

Scot LeFavor WHAM! mural

There’s tons more to see, so click through the gallery below to fully immerse yourself in the Denver street scene.

Check back soon for the next installment of our “On the Street in:” series.  Hint: it’s often preceded by “Moon’s Over…”

Stay Up! ~ Peace.

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ALL TEXT AND PHOTOS BY LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN


Tristan Eaton paints historic wall at Bern’s

TAMPA — World famous mural artist Tristan Eaton spent the past weekend painting his first wall in Tampa. The Los Angeles-based artist, whose work is part of the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, was brought to Tampa through a combined effort of CASS Contemporary art gallery in Tampa and Bern’s Steak House.

“CASS owners, Jake and Cassie Greatens, always thought that the wall facing Howard Avenue had great potential,” gallery director Janet Malin said. “This past fall, they approached Bern’s owner, David Laxer, about their idea to turn the wall into a powerful piece of art work.”

The Bern’s team was immediately on board, and they commissioned Eaton to create the mural in honor of the restaurant’s 60th anniversary.

“I love the shape of the wall,” Eaton said during a break from the spray-cans on Friday. “It’s really unique and it feels historic and important in its architecture.”

Working his first wall in Tampa has been an experience worthy of his stylish hosts. “They’ve been really good to me,” Eaton said. “Having a steak dinner after I paint, and being able to stay in the hotel directly across the street and have a view of the mural from the room. It’s a really amazing experience.”

The mural is sure to turn some SoHo heads with its rich palette of reds and oranges and its stylized depiction of large jungle cats intertwined with classical figures. The design was inspired by the restaurant itself, Eaton said.

“The place is filled with art, design and pattern. There’s ornate architecture and furniture … so I wanted to capture that regal heritage, with some humor and soul,” Eaton said.

 

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ALL TEXT AND PHOTOS BY LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN

 

LINK:  @tristaneaton on Instagram


20×16 at Cass Contemporary Tampa

Today’s burgeoning urban art scene has been cutting new trails into the Tampa Bay area lately and may have found a good place to set up camp on South MacDill Avenue.

After the successful “SHINE on St. Pete” mural festival and accompanying “Leave a Message” exhibit at the Morean Arts Center last fall, Cass Contemporary followed up with the show “Corrosively Bright,” featuring work by 12 artists, including international heavy-hitters like Ben Frost and Shark Toof. They also hosted the notorious Secret Walls live illustration battle with artists Frank Forte, Denial, Greg Mike, and local favorite BASK.

Cass Contemporary now has brought together 40 artists for its “20×16” exhibition, running through Feb. 13.

To ring in the new year, gallery owners Jake & Cassie Greatens asked this carefully curated group of artists to create works that were exactly 20 inches by 16 inches for this show. Next year they plan to do a “20×17” show.

A week ago, scores of people converged on the gallery, where live music played and projections flickered on a wall. The dance of the night was the “gallery shuffle,” moving from one artwork to the next, pausing only to discuss perceived merits or missteps. Cass had a full-page ad for the show in Juxtapoz magazine, an oracle of art and culture for the past decade. Art Week Miami may have been last month, but that vibe migrated to Tampa, at least for this one night.

“We wanted something that made us stand out and made the art stand out,” said co-owner Cassie Greatens, “and to bring a new art scene to Tampa.

“The idea was to show Tampa 40 different artists, and to put something in the space that’s good for everyone, not just different styles but also the price point, there’s a variety of prices and styles, and I feel like anyone can come in here and find something they like,” Greatens said.

With so many different artists there’s not a binding theme in this exhibit, but the size constraint does make it feel like a cohesive show.

There’s an urban/street art feel to many of the pieces exhibited. A majority of the artists have, in fact, made their bones by spray painting on outdoor walls before they moved to indoor works on gallery walls.

St. Pete painter BASK is a stand-out. His work titled “Debate” hangs alone on a smaller wall of the gallery. It offers the viewer an obscured scene of two wolves fiercely attacking each other, but seen through a finely painted grid of hexagons that give the impression of chicken wire and blood spatter.

“Debate” by St. Petersburg artist BASK, in acrylic, latex and enamel on box frames.

“It seems like a fitting piece given the escalating political climate, and given that it’s an election year and so forth,” said BASK about his painting.

Another local artist, Pale Horse, contributed his two mixed-media illustration pieces titled “Forbidden Knowledge” resembling polished enamel and copper etchings. In these cleanly executed works, a hand hovers just above a trio of mushrooms that are guarded by a devilishly decorated and fork-tongued serpent. These pieces feel like new versions of ancient icons.

Speaking of icons, there’s no lack of pop-art iconography in this exhibition. In 1962, Andy Warhol put his giant thumb down on the art world, and 50-plus years later, some artists are still struggling to get out from under it.

One could grab a handful of dice with the usual pop-art suspects printed on their sides. Things like: cartoon character, super model, couture emblem, graffiti tag, dollar bill, soft-drink logo, etc, then just roll the dice and paint whatever comes up together. (Wait, did I just give away the best idea for a pop-art app?)

Anyway, this often results in a less-than-inspiring combination, but once in a while you’d throw a true winning roll.

“Equality of Paint” mixed media by Rene Gagnon

Massachusetts-born artist Rene Gagnon certainly has a winner with his piece “Equality of Paint” which presents a spray-paint can adorned with the Campbell’s Soup logo, accompanied by a rainbow background and the word “equality” replacing the soup variety. The frame is even spattered with a rainbow of paint, which brings the piece together. It rises above the simplicity of its blatant appropriation to make a real statement for our time.

“Nadi” oil on board by Miami artist Tatiana Suarez

Another winning painting strays pretty far from the typical imagery and brings us the masterful and mystical visage of “Nadi,” a character brought to life by Miami native Tatiana Suarez. Her exotic and mythological large-eyed figures first got my attention at SCOPE Art Miami in 2014, and I was delighted to see her work in the gallery.

Local star Tes One (along with BASK & Pale Horse) has been bringing creative color to some of the Bay area’s well-trafficked walls, most notably a five-story mural on the Poe Parking Garage in downtown Tampa. For this exhibit, his acrylic on wood piece titled “Frostbite” was drawing a warm reception from gallery visitors.

Michigan artist Kelly Allen had perhaps the most unique piece in the show, a simplistic face, seemingly finger-painted into deep, rippling stripes of vibrant color. Titled “Cocoon,” it pulls you in and demands contemplation.

“Cocoon” 2015, Plastisol on canvas, by Kelly Allen.

Others that need mentioning are Greg Gossel’s puzzle-like wood collage “Butterfly,” Chris Buzelli’s elephant/tiger/monkey beast titled “Lotus” and Beau Stanton’s surrealist oil painting “Elysian Voyage.”

But these are just my favorites. You should visit the gallery and pick out your own.

 

LINK: Cass Contemporary


Dazzio Art Experience exhibits Holocaust paintings at new location

After 25 years of providing art classes in St. Petersburg, Jay and Judith Dazzio have moved Dazzio Art Experience from their Central Avenue location to a newly renovated section of The Arts Exchange on 22nd Street South.

The new storefront of Dazzio Art Experience on 22nd St. South. – LANCE ROTHSTEIN / STAFF

As part of their reopening, a collection of Holocaust paintings by Judith Dazzio is on exhibit, featuring more than 20 of her works. The exhibit is also scheduled to be shown in New York in April.

“Several decades ago while in elementary school, my class was visited by a Holocaust Survivor, who’s story has stayed with me throughout my life. I can still see the numbers on her arms. I can see the faded pictures of her children who had been killed, and how she cried when speaking about them. I began this series ten years ago, basing many of the paintings on her story. Therefore, many are historical, limited to the Warsaw ghetto and Birkenaw. The rest of the paintings are in honor of her children, and all of the children lost or who bear the scars of having the live through that time. The paintings reflect my emotional reaction to the helplessness and fear that they must have felt. The historical paintings were also important because I wanted them to be accurate, creative and powerful. They had to show one artist’s vision and style. I believe that I have achieved a melding of historical facts with powerful paintings that evoke emotion and thought. I am pleased that the three paintings from this series that have been entered into competition have all won top international awards.” – Judith Dazzio

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Judith Dazzio teaches Thursday at Dazzio Art Experience. More than 20 of her Holocaust paintings are exhibited at Dazzio’s new location., LANCE ROTHSTEIN/STAFF

The Arts Exchange is growing out of 50,000 square feet of warehouse space purchased last December by the nonprofit Warehouse Arts District Association at 22nd Street South and Fifth Avenue.

The association aims to develop affordable artist studios and create a sustainable arts community in St. Petersburg.

The first phase, construction of 28 artist studios, is set to begin in the next few months with a projected completion date of June.

 

LINKS:  Dazzio Art Experience, Warehouse Arts District St. Pete


‘Five Decades of Photography’ is a memorable visual excursion at MFA St. Pete

Showing at the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg is a photography exhibition so comprehensive, walking its galleries feels like a full course in photographic history.

On a wall, near the passage into one of the MFA galleries, hangs a smallish rectangular piece of black cloth.

Lifting up the cloth, ducking your head underneath and viewing what’s enshrouded there, may be as close to time travel as any one of us will get.

Modestly framed and behind a piece of special glass is “View of the Boulevards of Paris” from 1843. It is a salt paper print from a paper negative, both made by British photography pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot. For photography lovers, this is just one of the many unique and enriching experiences to be had by visiting this exhibition.

 

Running through October 4, “Five Decades of Photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, featuring The Dandrew-Drapkin Collection,” highlights about 200 images from the museum’s impressive holdings, including important works from virtually every famous photographer since the birth of the art form in the mid-19th century. The exhibit’s list of famous photographers is so thorough, it’s hard to think of anyone who’s not represented. It includes early pioneers such as Fox Talbot and Matthew Brady; groundbreaking 20th century artists such as Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham; and controversial image-makers Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol and Sally Mann.

Chief Curator Jennifer Hardin organized this, her final exhibition at MFA, and what a positive note on which to end. Many of the photos in the show were gifts from Ludmila and Bruce Dandrew and Chitranee and Dr. Robert L. Drapkin. Their generous donations between 2009 and 2012 enabled Hardin to put this collection together, which she has characterized as a “visual history of the modern era.”

Today we are inundated with photographic imagery from every angle, but the experience of viewing an old photograph can be like stepping through a wormhole back in time and having a visceral experience from that forgotten moment.

Many of the historical moments burned into our collective consciousness are shown in this exhibit, like the series of early stop-motion images of 1887 Greco-Roman Wrestlers by Eadweard Muybridge and turn-of-the-century scenes like Stieglitz’s “The Steerage,” a photogravure from 1907, showing the contrast between passengers on the upper and lower decks of a ship. With the rising popularity of celluloid film (replacing glass plates), and gelatin silver print enlargements becoming easier to produce, the mid-20th century was fertile ground for the prominent photojournalists. Some fine examples in this show include “Farmer and Son in a Dust Storm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma (1936)” by Farm Security Administration photographer Arthur Rothstein and Alfred Eisenstaedt’s 1945 “VJ-Day in Times Square,” that captures a kiss between a sailor and a nurse.

The number of photographs by women on display in the exhibition is impressive, especially when compared to the male-dominated photography collections of other museums.

There are the well-known stars such as Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, and Diane Arbus, but it’s exhilarating to see works by lesser-known masters and innovators like Julia Margaret Cameron, Gertrude Käsebier, Andrea Modica, and Barbara Morgan, who’s 1938 photomontage “Spring on Madison Avenue” is beautifully unique.

The status of photographers as “artists” was hotly debated over the first 150 years of the medium, but artistic photographers have become much more accepted in recent times. Images by those who attempted to elevate their work above the level of mere documentary make up most of this collection and, understandably, an artful photograph by Hungarian photographer Andre Kertész was chosen for the poster and entry signage for this exhibition.

MFA PHOTO EXHIBIT 1

André Kértesz (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985) Satiric Dancer, Paris (1926) Gelatin silver print

Florida-based artists and college professors Jerry Uelsmann, and Robert Fichter both experiment with surreal images and have influenced generations of photographers. Uelsmann’s gelatin silver print “Small Woods Where I Met Myself” is a mesmerizing piece, especially since it was made in 1967, more than 20 years before Photoshop.

MFA PHOTO EXHIBIT 3

Jerry Uelsmann (American, born 1934) Small Woods Where I Met Myself (1967) Gelatin silver print

Perhaps no general exhibition would seem compete without photographs by the master, black-and-white landscape photographer Ansel Adams. His piece; “Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park,” a gelatin silver print, is a jewel of the show.

MFA PHOTO EXHIBIT 2

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park (about 1940, printed about 1970) Gelatin silver print

The museum’s photographic holdings of approximately 17,000 images, rivals that of many world-class museums, and this carefully selected exhibition of humanity’s photographic mementos takes visitors on a visual excursion that won’t soon be forgotten.

 

FIVE DECADES OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Featuring The Dandrew-Drapkin Collection
When: Through October
Where: Museum of Fine Arts, 255 Beach Drive N.E. St. Petersburg
Tickets: $17 adults, $15 seniors and military with ID, $10 students and children; free for children age 6 and younger; http://www.fine-arts.org


Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks

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Late in the 1980s, burgeoning New York art collector Larry Warsh acquired a series of eight, common composition notebooks from members of a seemingly-defunct and little-known band called “Gray.” Those notebooks sat boxed in a closet of Warsh’s Manhattan apartment for more than 25 years. Now they are on a touring exhibition from the Brooklyn Museum, with stops at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, and the books are likely reaching a much bigger audience than the band ever attracted back at C.B.G.B.’s in 1980.

Of course, these aren’t just any notebooks. “Gray” isn’t just any band born in the Bowery. And it turns out that Larry Warsh is a damn good judge of groundbreaking art.

The sparsely-filled books contain years of hand-written notes by revolutionary artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and they seem to offer a peep-hole in to the mind of that unconventional genius. This exhibit presents pages from the notebooks alongside a selection of his larger compositions, providing the visitor an in-depth exploration of the Basquiat lexicon that is both verbal and visual.

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View from the Basquiat exhibition at the High Museum of Art.

Basquiat started the band, eventually called “Gray” with performance artist Michael Holman in 1979. They, with various other bandmates, played their ambient/industrial music at the usual downtown haunts, but with growing recognition of his visual artistic talent, Basquiat left the band in mid 1980. It was right about then his career seemed to lasso a shooting star and the artist struggled to hold on tight for as long as he could.

Surviving band members reunited to play at Basquiat’s memorial service in 1988 and again more recently for art happenings and music festivals. In 2011 they even released a “new” album “Shades of…” which includes cuts of  the late Basquiat’s voice and music.

GRAY – SHADES OF… from Plushsafe Records.

 

But this is about the notebooks…

View from the Basquiat exhibition at the High Museum of Art.

Since the beginning, Basquiat’s artistic efforts have focused on words and short phrases. The SAMO@ graffiti he perpetrated with school friend Al Diaz in the late seventies often seemed like excerpts of Beat poetry.

MICROWAVE & VIDEO X-SISTANCE
“BIG MAC” CERTIFICATE
FOR X-MAS
-SAMO©

Even after his painting evolved from street walls, to paper and fabric, to canvas and wood installations, these words and phrases infiltrated every aspect of Basquiat’s artwork. In fact they seem to be the actual essence of it, merely enhanced by the more visually dominant graphic elements.

Basquiat – Untitled, 1982–83. Oilstick, colored pencil, crayon, and gouache on paper mounted on canvas. Collection of Fred Hoffman.  Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

This first major exhibition of the books displays 160 pages of the artist’s personal writings, sketches and notes, accompanied by other drawings, paintings and historical Basquiat ephemera. The pages on display often reveal a kind of evolution on many of the subjects he used in his more extensive paintings, along with those iconic motifs like figures, faces and crowns.

Page from Basquiat notebooks – Famous Negro Athletes.

Basquiat drawing – Famous Negro Athletes, 1981, oil stick on paper. Collection of Glenn O’Brien.

 

Basquiat developed a unique way of using language the way other artists used paint, or filmmakers use footage. The notebooks seem to be like mental scrapbooks for the artist to collect and manipulate phrases and ideas.

The exhibit presents them as “autonomous works” and not the “preparatory studies” of a sketchbook. But they do have a sketchbook feel to them, only these sketches are made with words instead of line and shadow.

This brings me back to the Beat Poets, and Kerouac in particular. On the back cover of my copy of the book: “Jack Kerouac Book of Sketches“, (Pengiun 2006), it says:

“…Ed White mentioned to Jack Kerouac ‘Why don’t you just sketch in the streets like a painter but with words.’ White’s suggestion is credited with helping to inspire Kerouac’s move to spontaneous prose.”

Here’s an excerpt from a Kerouac “sketch” in Massachusetts.

———————–

Concord River RR
Bridge
Sunday Oct 24 ’54
Lowel
5 PM
     A ridiculous NE
tumbleweed danced
across the RR bridge
     Thoreau’s Concord
is blue aquamarine
in October red
sereness — little
Indian hill towards
Walden, is orange
brown with Autumn
The faultless sky
attests to T’s solemn
wisdom being correct
— but perfect wisdom is Buddha’s

—————-

Many of these Basquiat notebook pages have a very similar feel…

Basquiat Page2

Basquiat – from Untitled Notebook #2, 1980–1981 – Collection of Larry Warsh, Copyright © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum.

 

Just as other collage artists like Ray Johnson and Robert Rauschenberg collected little snippets physically from newspapers, letters and trash piles, to later assemble and re-arrange in their artworks, – Basquiat seems to have been collecting these snippets verbally instead. He collected them in the notebooks by writing them down when he read them, heard them, witnessed them, or just thought them up.

While many lines are filled with these intriguing collections of phrases, and developing ideas, other pages do indeed feel more like finished works of art on their own.

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Basquiat –  Untitled Notebook Page, circa 1987 – 

Collection of Larry Warsh. Copyright © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum.

Looking closely at the intricate structures of words and lines on the pages, one can hardly resist recalling the obvious influences of seasoned contemporaries like Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly.

Basquiat – detail from page of Notebook #4 – Collection of Larry Warsh.

In addition to these rarely seen notebook pages, some of the more emblematic Basquiat works are traveling with the show. These larger compositions, canvasses and collages add a pleasing compliment to the exhibition.

Views from the show at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

Some of the most precious little items in the show are the rare mementos of the artist’s life, such as the Brooklyn Museum Junior Membership Card signed by a young Jean-Michel Basquiat.

And the unforgettable Polaroid photograph by cohort Andy Warhol.

Jean Michel – Basquiat Polaroid 1982 – by Andy Warhol on loan from private collection, seen at The High Museum of Art.

These additions provide a much wider scope for viewing the artist’s work, making this a unique opportunity for both longtime aficionados, and Basquiat newbies alike.

As notebook owner Larry Warsh expressed so perfectly in an April, 2015 Q&A article for Departures by Laura van Straaten:

“No one can have a complete picture of the inner workings of any artist, but the words on these pages give us a glimpse of the soul behind this complex, creative persona.”

While I highly recommend attending this exhibition if you can, I can’t help myself from wondering what else Warsh might have stashed in that closet of his…

Tour Schedule :

Brooklyn Museum, New York

April 3–August 23, 2015

High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia

February 28–May 29, 2016

Pérez Art Museum Miami, Florida

August 8–October 23, 2016

 

Links, Sources & Recommended reading:

 

Departures: “Q&A: Larry Warsh On Basquiat’s Notebooks” by Laura van Straaten

Financial Times: “Larry Warsh on his approach to collecting” by Peter Aspden

Gray History from the website of Michael Holman

http://plushsaferecords.com/

http://www.basquiat.com/artist-timeline.htm

The SAMO© Graffiti photographed by Henry Flynt

https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/touring/basquiat_notebooks http://www.high.org/Art/Exhibitions/Basquiat-Notebooks http://pamm.org/exhibitions/basquiat-unknown-notebooks

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TEXT AND PHOTOS BY LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN (except where noted.)