Explores how his identity has morphed or split-up. His artwork Leeches, focuses on race, identity, segregation and alienation as well. His artwork Leeches reflects his ethnicity as most of his artwork does yet at the same time hides it. There is an obvious hybridity in Basquiat’s style, he made marks that do not seem to be related but they work with the rest of the artwork. This reflects how he felt trapped in his body. The painting includes a heart an eye, two faces which reflect how his identity had split-up as well and is trying to unify into a hybrid identity.
Axel defines diaspora as the homeland, which must be understood as an effective and temporal process rather than a place. Diaspora can account for a connection beyond from sharing a common ancestral homeland (Puar).
There are various elements of cultural identity reflected in Basquiat’s work. It has very dark tones, which hide his ethnicity and bright white elements to represent White Supremacy.
This reflects how he was trying to break free from a prison that is not accepting of other cultures or mixture of cultures which is reflected by the mixture of dark and white tones in this piece of art. Basquiat’s artwork demonstrates the struggle he faced of living in the New York and the oppression of the white man and the new identity he was trying to embrace. According to Hall, the diaspora is the way we reinvent ourselves, he specifically discusses our Black people reinvent themselves, by mixing influences from various cultures, African, American, European to develop an identity, and culture.
Basquiat was able to visually articulate the in-between spaces through his paintings and drawings and use these elements to cope with his reality. Portrait of Glenn, 1985, Jean-Michel Basquiat Many pieces of art today have a Basquiat quality to them. Racial and class struggle his artwork, Portrait of Glenn, Basquiat greatly reflected his multicultural heritage. The core essence of his art was his cultural identity. As stated by Hall, “cultural identity is not a fixed essence at all, lying unchanged outside history and culture. It is not some universal and transcendental spirit inside of us on which history has made no fundamental mark. It is not once-an-for-all. It is not fixed origin to which we can make some final and absolute return (226)”. Basquiat’s work reflected the influence of Caribbean heritage.
This artwork demonstrated sense of community to disenfranchised people by drawing and exemplifying his great persona, which appears to be bigger than life . According to Hall, “Cultural identities are the points of identification, the unstable points of identification or suture, which are made, within the discourses of history and culture (226)”. A young black man trying to find his own identity because he was an outsider in the New York art scene which was and still belongs to dominant white males. Basquiat created a framework as an artist of color and developed counterstrategies because he was inherently disadvantaged. The function of this artwork is to capture a persons’ identity through their actions and behavior.
He tried really hard to be an insider in a world which he knew he did not belong to and is demonstrated in his articulation between tradition and modernity as being an important part of anyone’s cultural heritage. We see this in the representation of his violent past and upbringing which comes through in this portrait. Tradition and modernity are an important part of anyone’s heritage and he demonstrates this through his articulation of the in between space. Bhabha states that “minority discourse sets the act of emergence in the antagonistic in-between of image and sign, the accumulative and the adjunct, presence and proxy.
It contests genealogies of ‘origin’ that lead to claims for cultural supremacy and historical priority” (The Location of Culture). Identity is hybrid and is constantly in process of development. Basquiat did not have a single sense of identify and hand many sources of artistic inspiration. Basquiat’s artwork was also successful as it was able to raise the consciousness of individuals. His intellect came through his artwork, it had several layers and the rich content in his art allowed him to question the stereotypes imposed on him and lead him on a question to find own identity.
According to Oliva, graffiti may be viewed as rebellion against the ruling class and its ownership of the city, and its spaces. Basquiat was very successful in achieving a clear articulation because he was able to communicate how he felt, the oppression he felt and how he was able to attack White supremacy with an art medium which they dominated. Basquiat was successful in achieving a clear articulation and was able to captivate his audience and make a connection with them through his work of art because an individual can relate to the work because it speaks directly to him and communicates.