Untitled (Julius Caesar on Gold), 1981
Acrylic and oil paintstick on canvas
50 x 50 inches (127 x 127 cm)
© The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/ADAGP, Paris, ARS, New York 2013
Basquiat had a formidable effect on my life – to the point that in the mid-1980s I stopped painting and withdrew from the gallery I was about to join. I envied the freedom in his work and hated what I saw as orderliness and constraint in mine. I thought, “If I can’t do that, why bother?” My absence from the studio lasted only a few months, but I would not show for another ten years, which was how long it took me to learn to appreciate what was, if uncomfortably, indelibly mine. My method was to make paintings so personal that no one would be interested in exhibiting them. Proof of this is that my first painting from that time, All the Numbers in My Head includes my Social Security number and my AmEx number. I had used writing in my paintings since 1976, but often it was obscured. Now, since I was sure no one was going to see them, I could be more revealing. Eventually they turned into paintings derived from my journals that were ultimately shown at the same gallery I'd been talking to ten years before – although that was pure coincidence since, in the interim, the gallery had a complete change of personnel. Seeing the Basquiats today, those spooky Boettis down the street—preceded by the work of Suzan Frecon and the late Alan Uglow, artists with whom I’ve had connections in the past—is almost too much to process. All of those exhibitions I’ve now been to several times, each visit more satisfying than the next, as well as the transfixing video by Ragnar Kjartansson at Luhring Augustine, with whom my relationship is, at least as yet, uncomplicated.
Oil on canvas, 36" x 36"