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Hollywood Africans


Jean-Michel Basquiat, Hollywood Africans, 1983. Synthetic polymer and mixed media on canvas, 84 × 84 in. (213.4 × 213.4 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Douglas S. Cramer  84.23  On view in the museum  On view in the museum
© 2009 The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / ADAGP, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Jean Michel Basquiat began his career as a teenage graffiti artist, spray-painting phrases on walls in the streets of New York City. At the age of twenty, he turned to drawings, paintings, and sculpture, incorporating a raw, graffiti-like style into his work and often using bright colors. Basquiat painted Hollywood Africans after his second trip to Los Angeles in the winter of 1982. The words and images in this artwork refer to the limited, stereotyped roles that African American actors were allowed to play in the movies during the 1940s, such as gangsters (GANGSTERISM) and farm laborers (SUGAR CANE, TOBACCO). The three portraits show Basquiat (at right) with the rap musician and artist Rammellzee and the painter Toxic, who had traveled with him from New York.

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