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The artwork “Glenn” (1984) By Jean-Michel Basquiat is an acrylic, oilstick painting with a collage on canvas. In this painting, Basquiat coveys his exploration of the self-identity through experience of black human beings. The drawing is busy with many different pieces to unpack and analyze, similar to the mind, spirit and thoughts of black human beings.
The graphic art is similar to surrealism, being that a lot of the images are a mix of human anatomy and the perception of blackness, giving a lot of the work a deranged look. The message Basquiat invoked through this painting was in relation of the black mindset and experience to the perception of Black people through his use of collaging, lines and color. The collage feels raw, like passion filled pages out of a journal with spontaneous sketches. There is very little saturation in color throughout the work, purposely done by the artist to make every color bolder and recognizable.
The juxtaposition of the almost messy looking drawing of the face over the very detailed collages provoke thought from the viewer to think about the meaning of the face and the art it lays on. The space it takes up is large; it is the whole canvas. The collage has interesting writing and drawings in it, such as police cars, DNA structures and many drawings of the anatomy of humans and animals. The canvas being the foundation of the work says that these are the thoughts that are the foundation of the Black experience.
Basquiat uses a lot of black, as well as green and red. These colors are the ones mainly made with oil sticks over the collective collage. These are also the colors in relation to pan-africanism and overall black pride. The massive drawing of a face over the work is colored black, with red and green hair. The use of these colors instantly made me think of the perception of black people; this face was oozing with blackness down to the hair drawn on its head. The red and green also strike me as symbolic, red possibly meaning vainness and evil and green meaning wealth. Each collage xeroxed has its own colors as well, like yellow, red, brown blue and purple. These colors enhance the drawings on the collages; life experiences enhance and change your existence, perception and understanding of the world, like the colors used.
The lines of the work are not sharp or straight, being that they were made with oil sticks, they are soft, and thick. The face takes up a lot space, giving significance to it. Around the mouth area of the face that takes up most of the space, there are various red and black lines coming out; some lines are broken off. This gives value and meaning to the words that are coming out their mouth. Many of the lines are vertical, specifically around the area at the top of the faces head. This could represent hair, or even more, knowledge and mind power. The lines have a grainy type of texture, matte compared to the collage canvas it is drawn on.
Through colors, lines and collaging, this artwork gives insight on the artist’s point of view on blackness. “Glenn” is informative, interesting and thought provoking art, made by Basquiat to help put into perspective the life and experience of black people. Self- exploration through thoughts in the collage is a prime example of his message. The pure emotion is felt through his use of lines and colors. The use of oilsticks as well highlight his passion as well, since it is an easier tool to use to be able to draw more freely. The art is a replication of life itself for Black people.
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