The Mask: (Part VI).
THE LEGACY OF ONE'S BODY OF WORK DEPICTS A LIFE WELL LIVED AS ONE IS ONE'S GREATEST WORK OF ART! EVERY ROLE PLAYED IN ONE LIFE TIME'S RELATIVITY TO THE INFINITE CROSS REFERENCES IN THE UNIVERSAL PATHWAY TO EXPAND THE EVOLUTION OF ONE'S SPECIE UPON EARTH.
This extract, from an internet newsletter, introduces the art of Basquiat. But what does it mean? Does “RELATIVITY” mean “Relativity” or “in relationship to”? What is a “specie”? A mistaken singular form of “species”? A body of artistic work “depicts a life well lived”. Not true for many artists and certainly not true of Basquiat who did not see himself as his “greatest work of art” and whose life was decidedly not “well lived”. But as an example of the PERSONA voice… this is perfect! The “one” and “one’s” carry such authority, are smeared on like spiritual blue oil paint, yet actually say nothing at all of any human value. "But shit, man," they sure sound good. In his later work, Basquiat scrutinised the word IDEAL. He saw the pun, “I deal”, also how the “IDEAL” had become sellable. Isn’t so much modern art about marketing the perfect product? And he would have laughed out loud at anyone’s attempt to deal out ideal ideas from the persona.
Basquiat ‘s art is not at all what people claim. In an early work (if you can talk of an early period in an artistic life that only lasted 7 years), Basquiat mused upon the art of image making. His drawing shows himself elevated (as an art object) on a staircase. At the base floats Warhol (?), spectral, the spectator, camera in hand. Upon Basquiat’s face is shock. He wears a smile that is faked, mask-like. The right of his face is red, as if it has been stripped of skin: exposed for the camera. The camera’s flash of light has been transferred to the photographer’s head—the idea rests with the photographer. Two diagonal lines mark a line of vision. And between them is “FOTO” crossed out by two lines. The status of the word is ambiguous. It has been cancelled. And yet it can be seen. It haunts the viewer (what Basquiat called “ghosting”). The instantaneity of the photograph is caught in the instant style of the drawing, which in turn questions the speed at which the camera makes a photographic mask. Basquait questions what the viewer sees when s/he looks across the colour line. Would a black male see differently? This seems to be the challenge in a series of photographs taken by Van Der Zee. As a photographer, he was known for making Harlem’s beauty look more black and its blackness look more beautiful. Black was beautiful in his hands. Something very different is going on as Basquiat, an icon of beauty and sexuality for both genders, sits for Van Der Zee. Spontaneous life is captured through a slow and studied art. The result is a beautiful mask, but still a mask. For as Van Der Zee said about his work: the camera image shows what the photographer thinks should be there.