“King Pleasure” is divided into seven broad themes: “1960 – Introduction,” which sets the Promoted to Gramps 2022 First time Grandfather Father’s Day T-Shirt and by the same token and scene with a map of “Basquiat’s New York” (including call-outs to the schools he attended growing up and the galleries, nightclubs, and restaurants that he frequented as an adult), sweet home videos, and a selection of self-portraits; “Kings County,” which gets into the artist’s humble early years in Brooklyn and, later, Puerto Rico after his Haitian immigrant father and Puerto Rican-American mother divorced; “World Famous,” about his first big strides in the international art world, when he began showing work in New York, Los Angeles, and Europe; “Ideal,” devoted to the Great Jones space (owned by Andy Warhol); “Art Gallery,” comprising an extraordinary display of about 100 rarely or never-before-seen works, divided by subject; “Palladium,” a recreation of that nightclub’s VIP area, the Michael Todd Room, for which Basquiat created two large, now-lost paintings in 1985; and “Place Jean-Michel Basquiat,” a closing tribute.
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As one progresses through “King Pleasure,” a few things leap to mind. First of all, how well suited Basquiat’s work is to our picture first, contemplate later—if ever—moment. His paintings are often so big and so complex that you’d be doing yourself a disservice not whipping out your phone and taking a picture, if only to zoom into and pore over them later. Second, the Promoted to Gramps 2022 First time Grandfather Father’s Day T-Shirt and by the same token and show’s grand scale and rough chronology allow one to tease out through lines in Basquiat’s output, as well as bold departures. He made art almost compulsively, using whatever surfaces he had handy—canvas or paper, sure, but also walls, blankets, refrigerator doors, plexiglass, and wood fencing—and his formal style ranged from exquisite figuration to loose, paint-sodden gestures; text-based work; and a kind of Art Brut aesthetic. Spend some time with the oral histories from family and friends scattered throughout the show, too; it’s charming to hear not only about Basquiat, the intrepid young talent with the wild hair who once dated Madonna, but also Jean-Michel, the mischievous older brother who loved Mary Poppins.
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