Jean-Michel Basquiat, Valentine (1983) Long term loan of Paige Powell at Portland Art Museum (Jubitz Center 3rd floor)
Just wishing PORT's readers a Happy Valentine's Day with this very unique Jean-Michel Basquiat on display at the Portland Art Museum as an interesting and nearly inscruitable meditation on relationships. It is one of the most unique Basquiats I've ever seen. It is a seemingly inward and private painting, portraying two monkeys grooming each other awash in a gentle field of pink. The figures are rendered with an intense roughness that offsets the saccharine color field and heart shape that their forms create. Is it really a heart shape or is it just all of the pink getting to my head? If the background were teal I would be just as inclined to say that the two figures together look like a bellows, with their body language saying to the rest of the world... go away.
I'm not going to delve into any personal backstory this painting might possibly hold (the painting's generous owner had a connection and I think it is plently nice enough just to share it with the public). Better to save any discussion of a major artist's love life for a more sustained historical discussion of what was and remains important.
I've always enjoyed this painting though, as sometimes art and love do endure... ah what cheeky monkeys! I love how some art works remind us that artists aren't just pawns for art historians and museums, simply uniquely expressive people who could transpose an emotional response into a more durable format. Thank You
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