Analysing a great masterpiece of contemporary art: EROICA, Jean-Michel Basquiat

Today, Artsper analyses with you a great and daring piece of contemporary art, Eroica, a series by Jean-Michel Basquiat.



Eroica, 1988, mixed techniques on canvas

After the death of his friend, Andy Warhol, Basquiat, at the top of her career at the time, became haunted by the thought of his own death. Something like a bad premonition.

Eroica, repeated on the canvas, cut, scratched, as the walls of a prison… Eroica, as a reference to Beethoven’s famous symphony that he wrote while he was about to become deaf. White spots are a counterpoint to the black spots that remind us of the holes left by bullets. Red traces, as if someone’s bloody hands were placed on the canvas. And then this litany of disturbing words — Man Dies, chanted several times, as a warning. In Basquiat’s work, the distinction between painting, writing and drawing disappears. They are pieces of puzzles, symbols which do not go together, splinters of an explosion.

In Italian, “Eroica” means “heroic”. This is far from reality. Multiplying heroism, as Basquiat does, is taking away its meaning, and bringing man to his condition of dying being. Man Dies.

A hero does not die, but a man does. Warhol died last year, heroes are no longer immortal, Basquiat crosses off, with rage, the hope of the human condition.

An X where heroism used to be…