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Basquiat’s Defacement - The Untold Story at The Guggenheim

Basquiat’s Defacement - The Untold Story at The Guggenheim

I had the pleasure of attending a press event Thursday, June 20th at the Guggenheim unveiling an historic, in more ways than one, Basquiat exhibit curated by Chaédria LaBouvier examining the history behind his painting “Defacement”. 

LaBouvier addresses the press on being the first Black Woman curator and provides background on her work creating this exhibit: 

Chaédria LaBouvier speaks about curating this exhibit

LaBouvier lays the groundwork for the focal points of the exhibit: how the 1983 death of fellow artist Michael Jerome Stewart due to police brutality sparked the pieces like “Defacement” and others in the collection, and also how Mr. Stewart was more than what happened to him in the last two weeks of his life

Chaédria LaBouvier describes the groundwork & pieces for the Defacement exhibit

LaBouvier speaks on what she hopes the public viewing this exhibit will walk away with:

Chaédria LaBouvier speak on what she hopes the public will take away with them from the exhibit
Chaédria LaBouvier viewing Defacement. (Photo credit - Storm Jenkins

Chaédria LaBouvier viewing Defacement. (Photo credit - Storm Jenkins

After viewing the show, I had a few moments to speak with Miss LaBouvier about Basquiat and the timing of this amazing project.
What was your first introduction/memory of Basquiat on your journey to become a historian about his work?
CL: The first one (memory) were the drawings above the sofa when I was a kid. My mother sold them in the mid 90’s and I was so young I don’t know that I would be able to find them in a line-up. But I remember they were very blocky figures and there were orange and reds. I remember thinking I could do that (laughing), I was eight. I think the work did what it was supposed to do, it changed my life and kind of propelled me into a career that I didn’t know was going to happen. I just did the research not knowing what it would be because when I was in college there wasn’t a field. There’s kind of still not a field and I just did it because I loved it and still love the work. So this just came through organically because I heard [Defacement painting] mentioned so many times by friends and when I saw it for the first time, I said this is different, this is a different work. I just went off of that instinct. I didn’t know anything about the history and, in the process of doing the research, then I discovered all of these other things. But when I first saw the painting I didn’t know it was part of a larger response to Michael Stewart’s death. Just an instinct and a good eye.

Did you feel it was the right time to present this [subject matter] given today’s climate of what is continuing to happen?

CL: This is an ever green subject, so I think even if I did this show two years ago or five years later it would have been timely. I wasn’t really thinking about a time. I just wanted to do this show because they take a long time to do and I wanted to get it up as soon as possible because there are other things I want to do and other stories I want to tell. I felt like I really want to do this well the first time and have it be up. I think sometimes curators re-visit their shows and re-interpret them, but I don’t think I’ll do that with this show.

Other works from the exhibit from top left to right : Basquiat: Defacement, Charles the First, La Hara, Irony of a Negro Policemen, Back of the Neck, (Untitled- Sheriff, Haring: Michael Stewart USA- Africa, Michael Stewart benefit flyer - Photo Credit - Storm Jenkins

Other works from the exhibit from top left to right : Basquiat: Defacement, Charles the First, La Hara, Irony of a Negro Policemen, Back of the Neck, (Untitled- Sheriff, Haring: Michael Stewart USA- Africa, Michael Stewart benefit flyer - Photo Credit - Storm Jenkins

The exhibit runs from June 21-November 6, 2019 at the Guggenheim Museum, click the link for more info!

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