Basquiat’s burgeoning stardom reached a climax in 1982, the year after Untitled (Shadow in His Office); Untitled (Oil And Water…); Untitled (Negative So Slow For That Reason) was created. The artist spent 1982 jet-setting around the world, appearing at major exhibitions, as each built upon the success of the next: Annina Nosei Gallery in New York, Gagosian in Los Angeles and Galerie Bruno Bischofberger in Zurich. That summer he was the youngest artist ever exhibited at documenta VII in West Germany, where his work was shown alongside such venerable artists as Gerhard Richter and Andy Warhol. Basquiat had also moved into a sizable loft apartment on Crosby Street in lower New York. Having previously painted in the basement of a nearby gallery on Spring street, the apartment on Crosby marked the first time that Basquiat occupied a space large enough to paint, unrestricted by size. As a counterpart to the large, explosive canvases, Basquiat simultaneously created a body of highly personal drawings, reminiscent in style of the artist’s early graffiti tags as SAMO©. Basquiat explains, “I like the ones where I don’t paint as much as others, where it’s just a direct idea” (Jean-Michel Basquiat cited in: Henry Geldzahler, ‘Art: From Subways to Soho: Jean-Michel Basquiat’, Interview Magazine, January 1983, online).
Building the composition through cryptic poetry, the present work exemplifies astute comparisons between the artist and Cy Twombly. Further, Basquiat was often sparse and deliberately succinct in his interviews, and his text-based works gives us insight into a profoundly brilliant and unconventional mind, where visual representation was as important as the words used to explain it. Untitled (Shadow in His Office); Untitled (Oil And Water…); Untitled (Negative So Slow For That Reason) is a testament to the artist’s continuous investigation of language; enhancing some of his most acclaimed works with the inherent power of text.
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