What is the most important, significant or interesting work of art by Jean Michel Basquiat?

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Answered by: Karen, An Expert in the Artists Category
Basquiat's painting "La Colomba" (1983, 183 x 366 cm) may not be precisely his best, but it is one of considerable interest, considering the over-abundance of attention paid to his more frivolous work. Made relatively early in his known-career (after his period of street graffiti), "La Colomba" does not deal stereotypically with racial matters or provide less than concise social commentary, so typical of much of the artist's work. Rather, it has a distinctly spiritual aspect, suggested by its contrast of black and white paint, both acrylic and oil, detailing and surrounding the two-headed personage that occupies the majority of the picture plane. Yet, much of the white is doodled on (pencil, ink, with scrawled messages (which actually detract from the painting's purely visual impact). There is a large area of blue (cerulean cut with white), and some crimson brush-work (representing perhaps a star shot from the sky).

The image, with the entity's protruding teeth is striking in that made-in-the minute (dig-this-spontaneity) kind of way that marked so much of Basquiat's work, is intentionally brusque, with paint applied almost crudely in many places, similar to other New Expressionists of the time. Yet, for all the entity's ferocity, the image is also disturbingly quiet, suggesting spiritual turmoil within.

"La Colomba" means 'the dove' in Italian, the harbinger of peace and pacifism, and the suggestion of the olive branch squiggled (not really drawn or painted, part of the artist's 'charm') in green in the upper right quadrant of the picture bears this out. But the bird itself, or the personage representing it, is sick, perhaps of its failed attempts to bring tranquility to this unhappy planet.

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