London: Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat ‘Olympic Rings’ at Gagosian Gallery

July 13th, 2012

Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Olympic Rings (1985)

During the 1980’s, the personnages of both Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat loomed large in the New York art world.  Warhol as one of its most visible older guard, and Basquiat as one of its prominent, up-and-coming stars.  But the two were also friends, and it was in this context that Basquiat and Warhol collaborated on a number of paintings that would end up being some of the last of their lives.  Blending Basquiat’s striking, often visceral approach with Warhol’s measured explorations of pop culture iconography, these pieces offered a marked commentary on both the style and subjects exhibited.

Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Olympic Rings (Gallery View)

Gagosian Gallery, in conjunction with the upcoming Olympic Games celebration in London this summer, has chosen to exhibit one of these works, titled Olympic Rings.  Depicting Warhol’s hand-painted version of the Olympics’ instantly recognizable logo alongside Basquiat’s black-faced caricatures and smeared paint accents, the painting offers a pointed critique of cultural identity in a post-colonial world.

Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Olympic Rings (1985)

Immediately commanding the foreground of the painting, Basquiat’s black-faced subject offers an ironic, critical take on Warhol’s mostly reverent depiction, literally casting a black shadow on the logos he stands in front of.  While the Gagosian’s site offers a noncommital reference to a history of black American Olympians, Basquiat’s sarcasm and political bite shine through, much like the controversial Black Power salute of Olympics past.

Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Olympic Rings (Gallery View)

Olympic Rings will be on view until August 11th.

—D. Creahan

All images taken from The Gagosian site

Related Links:

The Gagosian
Jean-Michel Basquiat Website
The Andy Warhol Foundation