Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, 1982, oil stick on paper.
33 x 20 in.*
This two-part drawing references many of the prominent themes in Jean-Michel's work: fame and the desire for it; wealth and power and the exploitation of others to get it; black identity and the exploitation of black cultural talent. Petrol and coal are natural substances that are black. They are sources of wealth and power and they often get mined through the exploitation of others. He combines the logo for Columbia Pictures with the Latin inscription on the MGM logo to produce a symbol of fame, the fame he craved and was beginning to experience in 1982 when he made this work.
On the reverse of these two drawings can be seen tape marks that show where they overlapped to create one drawing. The artist then made photocopies of details from the drawing—the foot, the Columbia Pictures logo, the phrase "petrol," "regular processed cheese" and "eeeee eeee" and used them in the background for the 1984 painting Famous.
The hallmark of Basquiat's talent is how fast he processed information and used it in a poetic and rhythmic way in his visual work. He was spontaneous but he always had something specific to say. He applied motifs and erased and edited them. In this case he must have edited out the bottom of one drawing and the top of another and combined them to make a third.