In an otherwise excellent review of Basquiat's ground breaking work now on display at MOCA, Christopher Knight gets a little... carried away....
The color Basquiat brought to art wasn't just in his paintings, it was in his skin. As recently as 1982, when the painter exploded simultaneously onto the art scenes in New York, Los Angeles, Zurich and Rome, the established art world was lily white, not to mention heterosexual, closeted and male. For all of Conceptualism's necessary social and political wrangling, which began to bubble up in the late 1950s, Basquiat understood that Pop is what possessed the power to change the actual landscape. That's one reason he and his pal Andy Warhol - 32 years his senior - formed such a strong bond. Today an Afro-Puerto Rican-American artist wouldn't turn a head. For that we have Basquiat's acutely subversive art to thank.
Does anyone actually believe that if Basquiat had not done his paintings, that a mixed race artist today would be an amazing, head turning sight? May I please see a show of hands?
Not... one single person?
I thought so.
And openly gay major artists (Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe, David Hockney, Keith Haring, Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg... to name just a few) and woman artists (Eva Hesse, Elizabeth Murray, Dianne Arbus, Judy Chicago, Helen Frankenthaler, Louise Bourgeois, Susan Rothenberg, Barbara Kruger, Lee Bontecou, Sandy Skoglund, Laurie Anderson, Sherrie Levine, Cindy Sherman.... again just to name a very, very few) were hardly the oddities in or before 1982 New York that Knight would have one believe. It is a shame is that an excellent overview of such a major artist is trivialized by such politically correct but intellectually dishonest off-the-cuff remarks.