While visitors flock to the Tate’s mighty retrospective of Andy Warhol at the Museum of Contemporary Art (until 18 August), smaller shows devoted to the artist are on view elsewhere in the city.
The brief artistic partnership of the newly famous graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat with the reigning king of the art world is well documented, in books, articles, and, not least of all, Julian Schnabel’s bio-pic of Basquiat. What has not been seen in some time are the pictures themselves, the results of Warhol and Basquiat’s glamorous collaboration, many of which are now on view at Gagosian (until 22 June).
Though Larry Gagosian was also involved in showing Basquiat’s work in the early 1980s, it was the artist’s primary dealer at the time, Bruno Bischoffberger, who had the bright idea that Basquiat team up creatively with Warhol. Each artist’s personality comes through in these works (below, “PE D G two heads”, 1984-85) the Pop artist’s controlling, accurate painting of the enlarged headlines and brandnames; the graffiti artist’s chicken-scratch scribbles, and rough-edged sketches.
Meanwhile the smaller gallery at Grant Selwyn Fine Art is full of Andy Warhol’s colour polaroids. The Polaroid Big Shot camera was Warhol’s tool of choice during the 70s and 80s and many of the portraits that he snapped during this period became the basis for later silkscreens and paintings, a huge selection of which are at LA MoCA. The artists, musicians, athletes and actors whom Warhol invited to the Factory would pose individually after a sociable lunch. Warhol might get female sitters to paint themselves with Kabuki-like white makeup and he would ensure that male subjects’ wrinkles were secondary to a movie star image.
Also at the gallery is the work of the late Malian photographer, Seydou Keita, who took black and white photos of the people in his hometown of Bamako (above, Untitled #313, 1956-57). Keita had a stock of costumes, jewellery and props that his sitters could raid, and he would position each subject against a backdrop with a contrasting pattern. The resulting graphic exuberance became Keita’s signature style and his work has been exhibited worldwide from the National Museum of African Art in Washington DC to the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris. A retrospective of Keita’s work takes place at the Studio Museum in Harlem next year. Both shows are on at Grant Selwyn until 15 June.