Sifting Through the Jean-Michel Basquiat Exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver With a Friend on a Sunday, by Lauren Gombas
Sifting Through the Jean-Michel Basquiat Exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver With a Friend on a Sunday
I couldn’t explain why Jean-Michel Basquiat, in the same black pea coat my friend was wearing, paraded all over New York, spray painting alleys, or why we were looking at his thoughts drawn and written on notebook paper with musical instructions, or why he sat in front of a TV with a helmet on, or why there were sweatshirts that were painted in a way that reminded me of the way vomit caresses sidewalk, or if what we were even looking at was art.
Maybe he was a performer?
And we chewed on that for a couple of minutes, because I knew I had heard someone say his name before in an art history class, or in passing, but the signs just mentioned a collection from throughout the years collected by his lover and I couldn’t place how a framed paper flag, a picture of him weaving chewing gum through his glasses, and graffiti made it into the same body of work.
This is really poorly curated.
I asked my friend what she thought.
It’s interesting to think that I am the enemy.
I don’t know what she meant.
I saw the paper American flag with ticks and the words a nation of fools, and the graffiti wall that said something like which of the following is omnipresent? Lee Harvey Oswald, Coca Cola logo, General Melonry, SAMO, the painted crowns, hollowed faces, and a single page with the phrase It took the guilt of four generations of sweatshop work to gain access to the statesman, and list of random names with lines through them on notebook paper.
Perhaps Jean-Michel Basquiat wrote on notebook paper while thinking about men in suits who lived in penthouses, or maybe she meant that the ring on her finger meant that she was marrying into a family who owned a mining company, or that she lived in suburbs while Basquiat grew up in the city, or if she meant she didn’t understand abstract art and Basquiat was the king of it.
I asked her if she was bothered by the fact that maybe someone somewhere might not like her.
No, it’s just interesting.
And I look at my own hands. I wonder if there is anyone who dislikes Basquiat for his graffiti, and if anyone dislikes me, and I think about the made in the US shoes I wear and the CRV that I drive, and the olive oil packaging I designed, the cheesecake light bulb that I made, the illustrations of plants in Colombia that I painted, and I wonder what anyone would want to collect from me and if they’d understand.
This piece was first published in Cholla Needles.
Lauren Gombas is a graphic designer, illustrator, and radio host. When she isn't designing, illustrating, or drawing, she's writing, hiking, and enjoying a great big bowl of pho.
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