Tag Archive | 1983

Modern Art Monday Presents: Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Death of Michael Stewart

The Death of Michael Stewart 1983
Photo By Gail

At the time of his death in 1983, Michael Stewart was an aspiring young artist new to the scene, and the details of his death remain officially unsettled thirty-six years later. Stewart was arrested for allegedly writing graffiti in the First Avenue L train station in the early morning of September 15th, 1983, on his way home to Brooklyn after a night out with friends in the East Village. At around 3:30 AM, he was brought, hog-tied and comatose, by police to Bellevue Hospital, where he died thirteen hours later.

The Death of Michael Stewart (1983) represents the Basquiat’s attempt to envision Stewart’s encounter with the police that night, and pay tribute. Originally painted on a wall of Keith Haring’s Cable Building studio, laden with tags by numerous graffiti writers, Basquiat’s composition comprises three figures: two cartoonish policemen wielding their batons over the partially defined man between them. The figure, rendered in black paint, represents both Michael Stewart and the enormity of the history of violence against black bodies: it could have been any black man in the wrong place at the wrong time, in America. The word “Defacement?” hovers above the trio in the upper register, posing a question about defilement: Can the (alleged) desecration of property be an excuse for erasing a life? It is important to consider that during the 1980s, ‘defacement’ was frequently used interchangeably as a term for graffiti.

For Basquiat, who famously said about Stewart’s death, “It could have been me,” the tragedy brought to the surface his own conflicted status as a black artist in a city roiled by racial tensions and a predominantly white art world that in the early eighties was largely unengaged with the social and economic inequities of New York City. When Haring moved studios in 1985, he cut the work from the wall. In the spring or summer of 1989, he placed the painting in an ornate, gilded frame inspired by the decor of the Ritz Hotel in Paris where he often stayed. The painting hung above Haring’s bed until his death from AIDS-related complications in 1990, when it was bequeathed to his goddaughter, its current owner.

Photographed as part of the Exhibit, Basquiat’s Defacement: The Untold Story at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC.

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Eye On Design: Kyoto Table By Shiro Kuramata

Kyoto Table
Photos By Gail

Born in Tokyo in 1934, Shiro Kuramata studied at the city’s polytechnic high school and Kuwsawa Design School. He revolutionized design in postwar Japan by considering the relationship between form and function, adhering to minimalist ideas but embracing surrealism as well. During the 1970s and 1980s, Kuramata began to use new technologies and industrial materials. He was inspired by Ettore Sottsass and joined the Memphis Group at its founding in 1981.

Kyoto Table Detail
Kyoto Table, Detail

The Kyoto Table (1983) is an example Kuramata’s innovative use of concrete and glass to create minimalist form with surface interest. Kuramata’s furniture and interiors have been influential both is his native country and abroad.

Photographed in the Met Breuer in NYC.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Bruce Nauman, Human Nature / Life Death

Human Nature / Life Death
All Photos By Gail

Bruce Nauman’s neon sculpture, Human Nature / Life Death (1983) is a circle of words corresponding to the defining contradictions of human existence — life and death, love and hate, pleasure and pain — are trisected by the words “Animal,” “Human” and “Nature.”

Human Nature / Life Death

Human Nature

Animal Nature

In the aggregate, the words form a colorful, illuminated peace symbol. Human Nature / Life Death is anything but serene or amicable, however, and not only because of its content. As the words flash and darken erratically, Nauman’s neon devolves into a jumble of disjointed signs that break the continuity of the composition and jerk the eye across the wall.

Human Nature / Life Death

Photographed in The Met Breuer in Manhattan.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Jasper Johns, Racing Thoughts

Racing Thoughts
Photo By Gail

Laying in the bathtub one day, Jasper Johns contemplated what he described as a series of images that ran “through my head without any connectedness that I could see.” Racing Thoughts (1983) contains elements of this scene, such as the hanging khaki pants and running faucet. It also features the subjects of John’s musings, including a puzzle-portrait of his longtime dealer, Leo Castelli, a pot by ceramicist George Ohr, a lithograph by Barnett Newman, and reproduction of the Mona Lisa — all influences on John’s artistic development.

By arranging these images in this way, seemingly affixed to the faux-wood-grain background with trompe l’oeil tape, thumbtacks and a protruding nail, he links them to his career-long preoccupation with illusionism and ambiguity. Disparate though the composition’s elements may be, they are united by a complex web of art historical and personal associations that conjure an image of the artist himself.

Photographed in the Whitney Museum in NYC.

Yes, It Exists: Jabba The Hutt Playset

Jabba
Photo By Gail

It makes sense that I am not the biggest Star Wars fan, because I had no idea that a Jabba The Hutt Playset even existed until I saw this one on display at the Museum of the Moving Image (visit recommended) in Queens over the weekend. It just seems so…wrong. I don’t know.

But yes, this is a thing made by the Kenner Toy Company in 1983 as a tie-in to Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. As a tableau, the details are pretty cool and you can see it comes with Jabba’s trademark Hookah pipe and his little Court Jester guy, Salacious Crumb. As far as I can a tell though, Slave Leia is not included.

If you now feel like you simply must own one, these things sell on eBay for between $30 and $100, depending on the condition. Not too dear at all.

 

Remembering Amy Winehouse on Her Birthday

Amy Winehouse Poster By Bruce Pavlow
Amy Winehouse Poster By Bruce Pavlow (Photo By Gail)

Singer Amy Winehouse was born on this day, September 14th, in 1983 (the year I graduated from college). Amy was found dead at her home in London, England on July 24th, 2011. RIP.

Remembering Dennis Wilson

Dennis Wilson Playing Drums
Image Source

One This Date, December 28th, in 1983: Dennis Wilson, drummer for The Beach Boys drowned at Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles after drinking all day and diving in the afternoon to recover items he had thrown overboard at the marina from his yacht back in 1980. He was buried at sea off the California coast on January 4, 1984 by the U.S. Coast Guard. RIP, Dennis.

Happy Birthday & Anniversary to Keith Richards!


“Hi, I’m Keith Richards, and Please Buy My New Book” (Image Source)

Keith Richards turns another year older today, having been born on December 18, 1943. It’s also the wedding anniversary of Keith and wife Patti Hansen, who tied the knot on this date in 1983. Congrats all around Keef!


Patti & Keef: Still Happy After All These Years

Remembering Klaus Nomi

Klaus Nomi

On This Date, August 6th in 1983: Maverick entertainer Klaus Nomi (born Klaus Sperber) died due to complications from AIDS, at the age of 39. The intriguing life and woefully short career of Nomi is the subject of a fantastic documentary, The Nomi Song, which I enthusiastically recommend!