“Defacement” by Jean Michel Basquiat



Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart)Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart)

There was something about this photo that immediately called my attention; maybe its my personal distaste for [racist] authority or perhaps it’s my inescapable desire to “save the black man”. Today’s society is strange in that we think that we have come so far, but we’re still at war with the same demons.

We’ve lost so many lives to police brutality in the time since Basquiat graced the earth, yet he painted the feeling clearly. As a woman of color, I deal with my fair share of ugly stereotypes and (envy disguised as) hatred but I cannot compare my experience to that of a man of color. I’ve tried to read the invisible man and what strike me is that this painting is the exact opposite. On one hand, the person of color can feel like they are not considered worthy or part of society… on the other hand, a person or color can feel like a refugee.

I find it interesting that the “dark figure” is literally just that — blogs of black paint. The police officers are pink, which is a telling choice, as it to make them look kind or approachable. With their shiny suits and billy clubs, the police look like they’re having tons of fun… The method of painting, with the light brush strokes that barely touch the paper are incredibly effective to me, in illustrating the motion and confusion of the situation at play.

Have you had a chance to see Basquiat’s “Defacement” in person? Or any other? What’s you favorite Basquiat piece?

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