JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT | Untitled (Space Pork)



Untitled (Space Pork)
red ink on paper
13¾ by 11 in. 35 by 27.8 cm.
Executed in 1977.

Price Available Upon request

Vrej Baghoomian, New York
Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris
Private Collection, Paris (acquired from the above)
Sotheby’s, Paris, June 1, 2011, lot 205 (consigned by the above)
Private Collection, Paris (acquired from the above sale)
Phillips, New York, May 16, 2014, lot 197
Acquired by the present owner from the above sale

New York, Vrej Baghoomian, Inc., Jean-Michel Basquiat, October - November 1989, no. 36, p. 97, illustrated
Paris, Fondation Dina Vierny, Musée Maillol, Jean-Michel Basquiat: oeuvres sur papier, May - September 1997, p.23, illustrated in color
Paris, Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Témoignage 1977-1988, October - November 1998, p.7, illustrated in color
Maubeuge, Espace Sculfort, Art and Writing, March - May 1999, p. 11, illustrated
Berlin, Galerie Pictureshow, Jean-Michel Basquiat, hits on paper, July – September 2001, p.3, illustrated in color
Rome, Chiostro del Bramante, Jean-Michel Basquiat - Paintings, January - March 2002, p. 58, illustrated

Untitled (Space Pork) typifies the visual lexicon of Jean-Michel Basquiat with its rapid and precise lines capturing each figure with a raw and direct spirit. This comic strip, narrating the story of the protagonists’ encounter with intergalactic police in the form of a uniform-clad pig. Basquiat’s cast of whimsical, otherworldly characters litter the page, carrying in their contours glimpses of the artist’s later works on paper. This work’s interplay of text and image foreshadows Basquiat’s mid-career works on paper from 1982 through 1985 which are notable for this blend of sign and symbol. In an interview with legendary art critic and curator Henry Geldzahler in 1983, Basquiat confessed that from a young age he had wanted to be a cartoonist. This desire is visible in Untitled (Space Pork) whose multi-panel sequence is reminiscent of a comic strip, complete with a title panel. Using dark humour to explore police brutality, this work takes the streets of New York City as its subject, one that would preoccupy Basquiat’s output for the remainder of his life.

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1960, Basquiat grew up during the decades of social turmoil resulting from rising unemployment rates, the civil rights movement, and public discontent with the escalating role of the United States in the Vietnam War to name a few. As a result, police abuse of power, and oppression of black Americans in particular, was on the forefront of people’s minds. As a young man of Puerto Rican and Haitian descent, police brutality and racial discrimination occupied a part of his everyday existence walking the streets of New York City. Basquiat’s penetrating social commentary is equally as relevant today following a rally of support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Basquiat’s work typifies a synthesis of the many artistic sensibilities and sociopolitical attitudes that coexisted in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A resurgence of figuration followed the period of Minimalist domination in art production at the time. Basquiat looked to modern art for the technical means and painterly styles that would accommodate his message. Having been taken to museums by his mother, a great lover of art, from a young age, Basquiat was familiar with art history and, knowingly or not, placed himself within its canon. “His earliest works have a strong affinity to those of Jean Dubuffet — not necessarily a conscious mimicking, but a related and compatible Art Brut sensibility. Dubuffet, believing that true art could only be found outside the traditions of the artistic elite, sought inspiration in the art of children and the insane. Both artists painted awkward and rough observations of city life, rejecting perspective for an intentionally naïve presentation of space” (Richard Marshall, ‘Repelling Ghosts’, in: Exh. Cat., Whitney Museum of Modern Art, Jean-Michel Basquiat, New York 1993, p.15).

Largely an autodidact, Basquiat took easily to this crude style so favoured by Dubuffet, covering the surfaces of the city with his graffiti. In the same year as Basquiat created Untitled (Space Pork) he and Al Diaz began graffitiing Manhattan using his signature crown and SAMO© (shorthand for “Same Old Shit”) for the first time, earning him a mention in The Village Voice a few months later, naming him and Diaz as “the most ambitious — and sententious — of the new wave of Magic Marker Jeremiahs”. Though he had just left school a year before completing this work, Basquiat was already exhibiting an artistic maturity well beyond his 17 years. The artist is quoted by the Estate of Basquiat as saying "Since I was seventeen, I thought I might be a star. I’d think about all my heroes, Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix .... I had a romantic feeling of how people had become famous." Indeed, in 1982 at the age of 21, Basquiat became the youngest artist ever to exhibit at Documenta in Kassel, Germany, where nearly 60 of his painting were featured.

The young Basquiat could sense his own talent and, in fact, only a year later, it began to be recognised by giants on the New York art scene; that year Warhol purchased a postcard of Basquiat’s he had been selling. In this way, drawing was, and remained, the basis of Basquiat’s artistic practice. In his short career, Basquiat produced around 1,500 drawings. This work has been exhibited 6 times and appears in over 6 monographs and exhibition catalogues of Basquiat’s work, confirming its exhibition of the nascent talent of the artist and early mastery of line. Radiating with ebullient talent, Untitled (Space Pork) is an enduring testament to the passionate, emotive, influential spirit of Basquiat’s incomparable and prodigious mark.

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