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An Intricate Tapestry: Exploring Basquiat's 'Notary' and Its Diverse Symbolism

In 1983, Jean-Michel painted this artwork entitled Notary, rendered in acrylic, oil paintstick and paper collage spread over three wood panels. It is considered by critic Fred Hoffman as a “comprehensive indicator of how the artist viewed himself at the apex of his career.”

In his essay, The Defining Years (2005), Hoffman writes, “Notary is a rich compendium of figurative imagery and references accompanied by an array of specific textual references to Greek mythology, Roman history, African tribal culture, systems of monetary exchange and natural commodities, as well as states of health and well-being.”

He adds, “Through text references to leeches, fleas and parasites who are destined to dehydrate and diminish the flesh of this male torso, it also shows the artist’s vitality and energy being continually challenged by life-draining organisms.”

Artwork: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Notary (1983)

Reference: The Defining Years, by Fred Hoffman (Basquiat Book, Brooklyn Museum, 2005)

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