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Jean-Michel Basquiat, A Troubled Soul

Basquiat often said that he “felt friendless and misunderstood.” After his parents separated, Gerard moved with his children to Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill neighborhood. When he was 7, Basquiat’s mother was diagnosed as mentally ill and was eventually institutionalized. This part of his life troubled him greatly.

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Untitled, 1981 by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Wikipedia photo.
Untitled, 1981 by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Wikipedia photo.

By Tamara Shiloh

It was the early summer of 1980. More than 100 artists converged on an abandoned four-story building at Seventh Avenue and 41st Street in New York City that had once served as a massage parlor. Among those in the group was Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988). His work on exhibit was believed to have been his first painting on canvas.

Although the exhibition, dubbed “The Times Square Show,” drew critical attention, it boosted 18-year-old Basquiat’s career as a painter. His contribution, a mural painted on a patch of wall, was described by Art in America as “a knockout combination of de Kooning and subway paint scribbles.”

The path to that shuttered massage parlor and his rise to success during the 1980s as part of the Neo-expressionism movement were not without difficulty.

Basquiat was born into a middle-class family in Brooklyn. His father, Gerard, a Haitian immigrant, was an accountant. His mother, Mathilde, was a homemaker. Despite her frequent hospital stays for depression, Mathilde spent countless hours in the Museum of Modern Art and the Brooklyn Museum with Jean-Michel, encouraging his interest in painting.

Gerard, physically abusive, wasn’t involved in his son’s career. Biographies and films have chronicled the strained relationship between the two, according to DNA Info.

Basquiat often said that he “felt friendless and misunderstood.” After his parents separated, Gerard moved with his children to Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill neighborhood. When he was 7, Basquiat’s mother was diagnosed as mentally ill and was eventually institutionalized. This part of his life troubled him greatly.

By age 17, Basquiat dropped out of high school. Gerard then threw him out of the house. He stayed with friends, slept in Washington Square Park, and lived-in run-down hotels.

It was then that he partnered with other graffiti artists and created the persona, SAMO, meaning “same old sh––.” For money, he panhandled and sold sweatshirts and postcards marked with his drawings. He got by on “cheap red wine and 15¢ bags of Cheetos.”

With no formal training, Basquiat created work that mixed graffiti and signs with the gestural and intuitive approach of Abstract Expressionist painting.

He expressed his personal angst in highly stylized self-portraits. In the early ’80s, race entered his work for the first time as a reflection of a “growing consciousness of his own position within the New York art world.”

His painting, “The Death of Michael Stewart” commemorates the killing of the young Black artist by New York City Transit Police. “Black people are never really portrayed realistically…. I mean, not even portrayed in modern art enough,” Basquiat had said.

Basquiat died of a drug overdose in 1988. Toward the end of his life, his works were selling around $25,000 to the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.

Earlier though, both museums had rejected his work.

Be inspired by Basquiat’s paintings, read “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” by Maya Angelou, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Sarah Jane Boyers.

Art

Four Seasons Announces Artists for 2022-23 Season

Violinist Angango Yarbo-Davenport, violinist, launches Four Seasons Arts Season on Saturday, October 8, at 3:00, with a program entitled: “Around the World in 70 Minutes.” She will be joined by pianist Elena Cholakova. The program includes works by Florence Price, Juan Antonio Cuellar, Igor Frolov, Jennifer Higdon, and Robert Aldridge.

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The Kanari Saxophone Quartet returns to the Bay Area on Jan. 26, 2023, to deliver a performance that transforms the perception of the saxophone.
The Kanari Saxophone Quartet returns to the Bay Area on Jan. 26, 2023, to deliver a performance that transforms the perception of the saxophone.

By Mary Jo Hudgel

Four Seasons Arts announces its 2022-2023 annual series of music. Programming emphasizes classical music compositions with contemporary works incorporated. The series intentionally offers an inclusive roster of artists that reflects racial, ethnic, and musical diversity.

Violinist Angango Yarbo-Davenport

Violinist Angango Yarbo-Davenport

Violinist Angango Yarbo-Davenport, launches Four Seasons Arts Season on Saturday, October 8, at 3:00, with a program entitled: “Around the World in 70 Minutes.” She will be joined by pianist Elena Cholakova. The program includes works by Florence Price, Juan Antonio Cuellar, Igor Frolov, Jennifer Higdon, and Robert Aldridge.

The Kanari Saxophone Quartet returns to the Bay Area on Jan. 26, 2023, to deliver a performance that transforms the perception of the saxophone. The quartet aims to highlight the instrument’s remarkable versatility by presenting meticulously crafted repertoire from all periods of classical and contemporary music.

Both concerts will be held at: St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave., in Berkeley.

Four Seasons has scheduled other chamber music events with the Viano String Quartet; the Park Brothers Guitar Duo; Piano Duo Beaux Arts; Thomas Mesa and Ilya Yakushev Piano/Cello Duo; and solo artists Jennifer Ellis, Harp, Amadi Azikiwe, Viola, and Thomas Buckner, a pioneer in performing and commissioning New Music.

A complete listing of Four Seasons Arts concerts can be viewed at www.fsarts.org. Concerts are presented in Berkeley at St. John’s Presbyterian Church and the Berkeley Piano Club.

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Oakland Featured in Film “Bottled Spirits” at Oregon Shakespeare, Premiering Sept. 2 on Live Stream

With an almost all-Black cast and crew, “Bottled Spirits” tells the story of 50-something Louise, a native of West Oakland, a community once known as the Harlem of the West. Gentrification has turned her beloved community into unfriendly and unrecognizable territory, and the weight of being Black in America now threatens to crush her.

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Oakland is featured in a powerful new film, “Bottled Spirits,” premiering at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on Sept. 2. (Pictured: Cat Brooks and Margo Hall)
Oakland is featured in a powerful new film, “Bottled Spirits,” premiering at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on Sept. 2. (Pictured: Cat Brooks and Margo Hall)

By Post Staff

Oakland is featured in a powerful new film, “Bottled Spirits,” premiering at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on Sept. 2.

Three Black artists who live and work in Oakland — actress Margo Hall, writer Cat Brooks, and director Elizabeth Carter — teamed up with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and International Production Company Black Lives Black Words to bring to life this tale of Oakland’s soul.

With an almost all-Black cast and crew, “Bottled Spirits” tells the story of 50-something Louise, a native of West Oakland, a community once known as the Harlem of the West. Gentrification has turned her beloved community into unfriendly and unrecognizable territory, and the weight of being Black in America now threatens to crush her.

She straps on the daily armor of alcohol, cigarettes, and a sharp tongue to block out the constant ache of losing everything that ever mattered. On this day, however, a door she has been banging on for years magically opens, an ancestor arrives to help, and Louise battles her demons — and herself — in a desperate attempt to find the courage to walk the difficult path toward redemption.

The film is the first installment of the Black Lives, Black Words’ Films for the People series.

Said lead actress Margo Hall, “Working on Bottled Spirits allowed me to channel all of the souls of West Oakland. To be inside Esther’s Orbit, and to sit on 7th street where the Panthers marched-ignited something inside of me, that was familiar, frightening, and exalting. I was transported and transformed. Louise is now in me.”

Cat Brooks, writer, said: “This is my love letter to Oakland. I am so grateful to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Black Lives Black Words for this opportunity.  Most importantly, I am grateful to this town for embracing me, sharing its stories and struggles with me and allowing me the privilege of calling Oakland home.”

Director Elizabeth Carter said: “I am beyond thrilled to be directing “Bottled Spirits” for Films for the People. This effort conceived by Black Lives Black Words International Project (Simellia Hodge-Dalloway and Reginald Edmunds) and co-produced with Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Nataki Garrett) is a dream come true.

You can watch a live steam showing of the film, Friday 2, Sept. 2, at 6 p.m. at

https://www.stellartickets.com/…/films-for-the-people. Tickets are $20.

After the screening, VIP ticket-holders (cost $40 for all access) can hear from Cat Brooks and director Elizabeth Carter, and more.Lives, Black Word

For more information: www.osfashland.org/productions/2022-digital/films-for-the-people

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Exhibit by Renowned Black Photographer David Johnson Opens at S.F. City Hall

“David Johnson: In the Zone (1945-1965),” is an exhibition that is being displayed through January 6, 2023, at San Francisco City Hall. It will feature 65 photographic works on loan from UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, which houses David Johnson’s vast archive of over 5,000 photographic prints and negatives, according to the SFAC news release.

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From top left: “We Demand” San Francisco City Hall, 1963 (pinterest.com), “Dancing at a Joint,” 1950 (sfgate.com), “Rhythm Records, 1890 Sutter Street,” 1947 (library.ucmerced.edu), “Camille Howard,” 1947 (www.apogeephoto.com), “Boys and Flag,” Hunters Point, 1947 (kqed.org), David Johnson in 2010 (www.wikiwand.com)
From top left: “We Demand” San Francisco City Hall, 1963 (pinterest.com), “Dancing at a Joint,” 1950 (sfgate.com), “Rhythm Records, 1890 Sutter Street,” 1947 (library.ucmerced.edu), “Camille Howard,” 1947 (www.apogeephoto.com), “Boys and Flag,” Hunters Point, 1947 (kqed.org), David Johnson in 2010 (www.wikiwand.com)

By Godfrey Lee

The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) Galleries is presenting “David Johnson: In the Zone (1945-1965),” an exhibition that is being displayed through January 6, 2023, at San Francisco City Hall.

It will feature 65 photographic works on loan from UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, which houses David Johnson’s vast archive of over 5,000 photographic prints and negatives, according to the SFAC news release.

The exhibition will be on display on the Ground Floor and in the North Light Court, and will be free and open to the public, Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., City Hall, located at 1 Dr Carlton B Goodlett Place, is closed on Saturday, Sunday, and legal holidays.

“At this stage in my life, it is truly an honor to have this inaugural retrospective of my life’s work shown in the city’s most iconic building, SF City Hall. The SFAC Galleries’ recognition that my historic point of view remains relevant even in today’s cultural and political landscape deeply warms my heart and gives meaning to the sacrifice it took to achieve it,” said Johnson, who lives in Greenbrae with his wife, Jacqueline Annette Sue.

Johnson was born on Aug. 3, 1926, near Jacksonville, FL. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he moved to San Francisco to study at the California School of Fine Arts (later renamed the San Francisco Art Institute) in its newly formed Photography Department led by renowned photographer Ansel Adams. Johnson was the first Black artist to graduate during what is now known as the program’s “Golden Decade” from 1945 to 1955.

Johnson, 95, is recognized as one of the most important photographers to document the joys and struggles of formative decades in San Francisco’s storied history, focusing his camera on day-to-day life, with special emphasis on the Black community in his Fillmore District neighborhood from 1945 into the 1960s, before redevelopment in the 1970s changed the demographic of the community forever.

He photographed passers-by as well as friends, gathering spots like churches and barbershops, children playing and teens hanging out, dance halls and jazz clubs, and the fight for civil rights.

“David Johnson is a pioneer, not only for his work behind the camera lens, but for his advocacy and leadership,” said Ralph Remington, SFAC’s director of Cultural Affairs. “Thanks to David, we have these beautiful images to look back on and learn from, showing us how far we’ve come, how much has changed and how much more we still have to fight for.”

Johnson opened a photography studio on Divisadero Street in 1949, and worked as a post office clerk, and as a reporter for the Sun Reporter. Johnson was also an organizer and civic leader who worked to unionize postal service workers, co-found UCSF’s Black Caucus, and photograph the March on Washington for the NAACP. He ran for San Francisco County Sheriff and later become a social worker for foster families.

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