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A Lie

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Artwork Details

A Lie
Jean-Michel Basquiat
colored crayons on paper
24 in x 18 in (60.96 cm x 45.72 cm);24 in x 18 in (60.96 cm x 45.72 cm);28 in x 23 in (71.12 cm x 58.42 cm)
Gift of Arthur Cohen in honor of Ben and Yetta Cohen


Gallery Rotation Fall 2011

Jean Michel Basquiat first gained attention as a graffiti artist in the late 1970s, signing his work SAMO© (short for “same old shit,” followed by the copyright symbol). Unlike the wild, colorful stylings of his contemporaries, the teenaged Basquiat tagged the walls and surfaces of New York City with such enigmatic messages as “SAMO© AS AN END TO MINDWASH RELIGION, NOWHERE POLITICS, AND BOGUS PHILOSOPHY” and “(SAMO©) A PIN DROPS LIKE A PUNGENT ODOR…” SAMO©’s writings were only occasionally accompanied by images, but they formed the foundation of Basquiat’s artistic practice, in which short fragments of text are combined with enigmatic renderings of everyday objects and symbols that function like pictographs. For Basquiat, language never performed the subsidiary role of caption or subtitle. He described the words he injected into his work as “brushstrokes,” suggesting an equivalence between textual and visual representation. In the three early drawings on view here, language is used elliptically, suggesting new relationships rather than explaining existing ones.

Subject Matter:

Expanding on his beginnings as a graffiti artist, this work represents several works in which Basquiat engaged with text and image. Here, the images of breakfast food are presented under the heading "A LIE."  Basquiat challenged the core essences of these objects in a context, which defies everyday expectations.

Physical Description:

This is a line drawing done in colors of red, orange, blue, yellow, brown and green, on white paper. In the top center portion of the sheet are the words, "A LIE". Below this are forms that resemble an egg, a slice of bacon, a piece of bread with a pat of yellow butter. Below these forms are some round shapes, labeled "flakes", a bowl and a carton of milk, labeled "milk".

Usage Rights:

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