|Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol - Eggs, acrylic on canvas, 1985|
|Warhol - Campbell's Soup Box, box constructed|
with acrylic, canvas, and silkscreen, 1986
While previous shows at The School featured gallery artists and the works were generally for sale, this iteration is made up entirely of privately owned pieces which, considering the exalted historical status of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, gives it the aura of a museum exhibition. Though these facts don't guarantee universal appeal, it is a very likable show for anyone who can handle Pop, abstraction, and expressionism, along with a generous dollop of adult content.
|Basquiat - installation view of 45 Marker on Ceramic Plates, 1983-84|
Per the gallery's press release, the crux of the exhibition lies in the collaborative paintings and interconnected practices of the two artists. Widely criticized when the collaborations took place in 1984-5, this re-examination proves that time passing is the best method for judging the true value of a work of art.
Beautifully installed in the venue's most expansive room, eight large jointly made paintings are augmented by more than 100 individual works, including Warhols from as early as 1964 and Basquiats from 1980 to 1987 (the year Warhol died). A large chunk of the Warhols are Polaroids (many of them quite wonderful), and there are also three Warhol short films and a 2018 PBS documentary on Basquiat running continuously.
|Warhol - Installation view of 16 Polaroid Torsos, 1977|
Each facet of this process is rewarding. There are rooms where Warhol's or Basquiat's pieces stand alone, as well as spaces where they are intentionally juxtaposed.
|Warhol - Ladies and Gentlemen, acrylic and|
silkscreen ink on canvas, 1975
This is evident in a number of the works shown here that may surprise people who know Warhol primarily from his factory-made Pop art, in which his masterly hand at drawing is applied to beautifully rendered portraits of drag queens and transvestites - all of them black.
Aside from race, the show delves into another taboo subject - that of death. Indeed, this is its true core. Especially in the collaborative paintings, but elsewhere too, the preoccupation with death is palpable – images of skulls litter the exhibition, along with other direct references to the end we can't escape. The Basquiat that opens the show, a football helmet adorned with human hair that he advised Warhol to wear in order to understand the black experience, is itself a proxy skull.
|Basquiat - Il Duce, acrylic, oil stick,|
and spray paint on canvas, 1982
Though it's sad to recall both men's deaths, just a year and a half apart (Warhol from complications after gall bladder surgery, and Basquiat of a heroin overdose at age 27), this exhibition shows the lasting legacy of their extraordinarily vital energies, and leaves the visitor uplifted by the joy they clearly took in sharing their artistic pursuits. To paraphrase my friend Margo, who joined me there, we just loved it.
Basquiat x Warhol continues through Sept. 7.
Note: Images reproduced here are © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; or © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / ADAGP, Paris / ARS, New York 2019
|Basquiat - Anatomy, set of 18 framed screenprints on Arches 88, 1982|