Jean-Michel Basquiat, ‘Head’, 1982-2001, New River Fine Art

Basquiat’s thematic fixation on the head can be seen throughout his body of work—this is yet another iconic example of a motif that he visited and revisited during his tragically short career. The language of this image is reminiscent of 16th and 17th century vanitas still lifes that often incorporated skulls allegorizing the finality of death. Basquiat builds on this visual lineage while also exploring his own themes and interests. The figure displayed in this print is not quite a skull yet not quite a fully fleshed human; the head depicted exists in a liminal space. The exterior blue and brown lines suggest the presence of skin while the milky white interior seemingly depicts the color of its skull. Black wavy lines throughout the interior of the head bring to mind the grooves of the brain. The print is emblematic of Basquiat’s interest in dualities; in this instance life and death, interior and exterior, and light and dark.

Signature: Numbered 'HC 15/15' in pencil (an hors commerce, the edition was 85 and 15 artist's proofs), signed and dated '11-19-01' by Gerard Basquiat (Administrator of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat) in pencil with the Estate stamp on the reverse, published by De Sanctis Carr Fine Art, Los Angeles.

About Jean-Michel Basquiat

A poet, musician, and graffiti prodigy in late-1970s New York, Jean-Michel Basquiat had honed his signature painting style of obsessive scribbling, elusive symbols and diagrams, and mask-and-skull imagery by the time he was 20. “I don’t think about art while I work,” he once said. “I think about life.” Basquiat drew his subjects from his own Caribbean heritage—his father was Haitian and his mother of Puerto Rican descent—and a convergence of African-American, African, and Aztec cultural histories with Classical themes and contemporary heroes like athletes and musicians. Often associated with Neo-expressionism, Basquiat received massive acclaim in only a few short years, showing alongside artists like Julian Schnabel, David Salle, and Francesco Clemente. In 1983, he met Andy Warhol, who would come to be a mentor and idol. The two collaborated on a series of paintings before Warhol’s death in 1987, followed by Basquiat’s own untimely passing a year later.

American, 1960-1988, New York, New York, based in New York, New York