Skip to content

From Street Art to Symbolism: Basquiat's Evolving Depiction of the Human Figure

The year 1981 was significant for Jean-Michel, marking his rise from street artist to celebrated figure in the New York art world. During this time, he created the two untitled works shown here that include a crown of thorns and halos, both of which became notable elements in Jean-Michel’s work.

“Central to Basquiat’s art is the human figure,” writes curator Richard Marshall, “He quickly abandoned the automobile and cityscape as subject, and introduced his unique depiction of man, specifically black man. Basquiat’s earliest figures are frontal and flat, of stick-figure simplicity, and often partially reveal their internal skeleton and organs. Most pronounced is a halo or crown of thorns that lends the figures a superiority, specialness, and religious aura, as can be seen in the apostle-like fishermen of two 1981 untitled paintings.” 

–– RichardMarshall

Artworks: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled,1981; Untitled, 1981.

Source: Richard Marshall, “Repelling Ghosts” from the book, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Whitney Museum, 1992.

Go to top Top