Jean-Michel Basquiat Palm Springs Jump

Painted in 1982, Palm Springs Jump is one of the great exuberant paintings exalting this spirit of improvised adventure and achievement that Basquiat made in a surge of drug and music-fuelled creativity during the heady days when he had just broken through to star status. Marking his ascension to the big time, these paintings, widely regarded as among Basquiat’s best, both celebrate and define an entire pantheon of characters – saints, kings, heroes and villains radiating, rising and falling at the edge of Basquiat’s consciousness. Here, personal heroes like Hank Aaron and Joe Louis adorned with crowns and haloes rage terrifyingly in a mixture of triumph or anger amidst a downtown barrage of colourful pictorial flotsam scrawled, splashed and drawn from disparate sources. Applied with all the frenetic energy and hyperactive imagination of a kid surging on a sugar rush in front of Saturday morning cartoons, comic-book figures mix and fuse on Basquiat’s canvases with words and images taken from a wide range of sources that all lay immediately to hand in his chaotic crash-pad of a studio. Here passages from Leonardo’s notebooks meet consumer product labels and song lyrics. Trademarks and diagrams from Gray’s Anatomy become enlightened by repetitive phrases passing through the artist’s head and the authoritarian but also strangely surreal sign- language of the city’s streets. Drawing on the assemblage and borrowing nature of artistic heroes like Picasso and Rauschenberg, Basquiat, who Reni Ricard, memorably defined at this time as an orphan child of Jean Dubuffet and Cy Twombly, forged a gumbo-like fusion of pictorial style that spoke of the vitality of experience with a raw and spontaneous energy of painterly expression.

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