Jawbone Of An Ass is a 2004 screen print in colours by Jean-Michel Basquiat from a collection of the same name. Many of Basquiat’s works attest to his encyclopaedic and transgressive cultural knowledge, which sees a diverse range of historical references brought into close proximity. Moments of ancient history such as the Punic Wars are referenced next to events from the recent past. Extensive timelines are thus forcefully compressed within Basquiat’s canvases and prints. As Jeffrey Dietch writes: “He vacuums up cultural fallout and spits it out on stretched canvas, disturbingly transformed”.
Even if the textual references of Jawbone Of An Ass are largely historical, social commentary linked to the present day bubbles under the surface. Next to the title at the top of the image reads ‘sbestos’, linking this piece to the anti-capitalist sentiment of Per Capita and Rinso through its allusion to the Asbestos scandal.
The crowd of figures which surround the central piece of text are ambiguously rendered, appearing to spectate on the historical figures, events and places which populate the text. The pair appearing to throw punches in the bottom-right of the image evoke not only the violence of the conflicts mentioned, but also recalling Basquiat’s fascination with the world of boxing, as documented in prints like Boxer Rebellion.