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Cut-and-Rip: Basquiat's Xerox Experimentation in 'King of the Zulus'

Jean-Michel’s penchant for experimentation became the central theme of Nahmad Contemporary’s “Jean-Michel Basquiat: Xerox” exhibition that showcased the distinct use of photocopies in his artworks, as shown in this painting, King of the Zulus (1984-85). An excerpt from the show’s introduction contextualizes his process:

“The process of photocopying became so integral to his practice that he eventually invested in his own color Xerox machine for his studio. He called upon the cut-up technique popularized by Beat Generation writer William S. Burroughs to assemble cut-and-ripped photocopies into large-scale compositions that he overlaid with text, symbols, drawings and found objects… Not only do the Xerox paintings position Basquiat as a pioneer of the pre-digital age, but they also demonstrate an unprecedented self-appropriative technique that places him within the annals of conceptual art.”

Artwork: Jean-Michel Basquiat, King of the Zulus, 1984-85.

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