Monday, March 24, 2008

A story of intuition.

There is a famous story about Basquiat and Warhol. In October, 1982, the art dealer Bruno Bischofberger took Basquiat down to the Factory to meet Warhol. They had lunch and Warhol decided to exchange a Polaroid of the two artists (taken by Makos) for a Basquiat painting. In an act of one-up-man-ship and hubris, Basquiat decided to go further: he would create a painting for Warhol, a double portrait. Only a few hours later, Torton, Basquiat’s assistant returned with a finished painting. This was Dos Cabezas/Two Heads. Warhol, the master of staging, realised that (at last) he had been up-staged. Basquiat’s portrait of Warhol saw straight behind the mask, capturing his strangeness, awkwardness, voodoo-like attraction.

Recently, a friend told me an interesting story about Orokie. A story that showed similar speed and insight. One night, Orokie asked this friend to send him a picture of a Black Male. The “game” was this. The friend would write down what he saw in the picture. Orokie would respond in images, sending a picture that showed what he “felt” was inside the photograph. A few hours later, a picture returned by email. It showed a sense of hurt, a questioning in the mind of the Black Male. Orokie said there was “a deadness in his eyes” as if he knew what the photographer wanted: sex. For Orokie, it was not a nice photograph. The image was about modelling for money and sexual suffering. Orokie also said that there was illness inside the man, decay, a sense that life was wasting and the end was near. The beautiful face was a Death’s Head. Beneath the glamour of the image there was real sadness. It wasn’t only the speed of drawing that puzzled the friend, it was also the accuracy. The image was of Dennis Speight…by Mapplethorpe…one of the photographer’s casual (for Mapplethorpe) Black sex-partners…and his image was associated with one key work by Mapplethorpe: an installation which combined photographs (with thorn and calla lilies) and a stone Death’s Head in an image of sexual passion.

As fast as Basquiat, and as insightful!

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