A Brief Look: Jean-Michel Basquiat

Raina Benoit continues her series on Prospect.3 with a review of "Basquiat and the Bayou" at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Zydeco, 1984. Acrylic and oil stick on canvas. Courtesy the Bischofberger Collection, Männedorf-Zürich.

Jean-Michel Basquiat
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
925 Camp Street
October 25, 2014 - January 25, 2015

There are many good reasons to bring Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work to New Orleans; however, those who’ve never seen the painter’s work in person may miss the point of “Basquiat and the Bayou,” and those who have may be disappointed. Superficially, drawing a dotted line between Basquiat’s work and the city of New Orleans is a simple task. The ease of his mark making—the broad irreverent brush strokes dressed in flamboyant colors—communicates an eclectic energy intrinsic to the port city and his forms have undeniable connections to its African cultural roots. The painter’s signature visual clamor, however, appears uncharacteristically quiet—even muffled—in the dimly lit, roped-off, and guarded fortress of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s top floor. With titles like Zydeco, Natchez, and Procession, it is clear that the region played a role in the artist’s imaginings, though I’m not sure locals will walk away from the nine works with more than a cursory understanding: yes, this artist knew about the South. They may even walk away feeling isolated. One doesn’t need to see a trumpet in a painting to prove the region’s cultural significance.