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Unsigned Print Edition of 10
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Toni Clayton, American Pop & Modern Specialist
In this untitled print, an ambiguous face, most likely that of an animal, drawn in white with a mesh-like covering over the mouth area, is depicted above 24 blocks of text, lines and sketches. The web structure which seems to intrude upon the face evoking an air of entrapment and constriction evokes the similarly-depicted rib cages and skulls which dominate the artist’s depictions of the human body.
The blocks of text could be pages of an encyclopaedia, diverse sources of information colliding aggressively. The frenetic use of lines and arrows, criss-crossing and dividing up the text and images, mirrors the clashing themes and references of the artist’s works. The viewer squints to make sense of the highly compressed information brought to life within the piece. As such, Olivia Laing suggests that “the evident use of codes and symbols inspires a sort of interpretation-mania on the part of curators. But surely part of the point of the crossed-out lines and erasing hurricanes of colour is that Basquiat is attesting to the mutability of language.”