Monday, January 12, 2009

'To Repel Ghosts' ('Fantasmi da scacciare'): Jean-Michel Basquiat in Rome

Jean-Michel Basquiat; Firenze 1985; Photo © Michael Halsband

Self portrait (Plaid), 1983
Acrylic and paper on panel
Thaddaeus Ropac Collection
Salzburg - Paris

'To Repel Ghosts' ('Fantasmi da scacciare'): Jean-Michel Basquiat in Rome
The MemmoFoundation in Palazzo Ruspoli, Via Del Corso. Through February 1, 2009.
If there is any city that can make you believe in ghosts, that is, in the continuity of spiritual existence after death, it would have to be Rome. Besides the remarkable antiquity everywhere, of a city with roots back to 753 BCE (although historians believe it may have been closer to 625 BCE), ancient structures and fragments of structures, there are physical relics of Saints and Popes and Clergy everywhere, literally mounted on the walls or under the altars of churches (chiese), dating back to the Renaissance and earlier. There is even a "Museum of the Souls in Purgatory" on the lungo Tevere, containing objects or photos of objects that show "tangible traces" of apparitions made by various souls in Purgatory to those left behind on earth, including hand or fingerprints on book pages, wooden boards or articles of clothing from Belgium, France, Germany and Italy.

Therefore, maybe that is what makes the exhibit, "Fantasmi da scacciare," To Repel Ghosts, of work by Jean Michel Basquiat at the Palazzo Ruspoli, so fascinating and provocative here. This isn't the enormous Brooklyn Museum retrospective of 2005, which presented every aspect of the Brooklyn-born artist's career in deep focus. Here, Basquiat's work is limited to about 40+ wonderfully chosen pieces, including some created in collaboration with Andy Warhol and Francesco Clemente, more than ten works being exhibited for the first time and 5 previously unpublished photographs by Michael Halsband.

Selection of works from the exhibition:
The work, curated by Olivier Berggruen, Associate Curator, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, is beautifully presented here. The soft grey, not white, gallery walls, cause the stark blackness of the "SAMO" images, as well as the Mediterranean blues and blood reds of other works here, to stand out in beautiful relief.

As the catalog by Olivier Berggruen and Francesco Pellizzi notes: "The artist affirms his presence through the evocation of fragments, as a way of “repelling ghosts”, a favorite phrase of his that appears in at least three paintings. The eerie presence of zombie-like creatures that appear to be coming back from the dead, the remnants of writing, sometimes erased, sometimes ‘etched’ into the canvas with unequalled force: these affirm Basquiat’s peculiar situation in which he tried to bridge the abyss between the evanescence of life and its affirmation through the painter’s gesture."

The exhibit includes "Eroica II" and other richly text-imbued works that seem to channel the artist's affinity for Gnostic wisdom and secret language, transcending graffito, and linking the streets of Brooklyn and the Lower East Side, circa 1980s, until his untimely death in 1988, with those of Rome in the 21st century, at once backward looking and forward gazing. Transgressing boundaries of "high" and "low" art, "life", "death", and most of all, notions of "beauty" and "aesthetics."

The Memmo Foundation at the Palazzo Ruspoli:
--Brooklyn Beat

Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo