Man from Naples, a work by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Man from Naples (1982) by Jean-Michel BasquiatGuggenheim Bilbao

This work was created in 1982, a particularly important moment in the career of Jean-Michel Basquiat, after his discovery as an artist, and before his period of maximum productivity.

Man from Naples is an essential work for understanding the development of Basquiat's painting during the 1980s.

In Man from Naples, the artist apparently regarded the entire surface of the canvas as a big blackboard where he could scribble and mix signs.

The title of the painting comes from a phrase written over the head of a red pig which, although surrounded by countless inscriptions, splashes of color, cross-outs, and elementary signs, dominates the composition like a totemic image.

Most of the pictorial surface is taken up by a chaotic jumble of scrawls, words, numbers, symbols, and colors. Humor, irony, and primitivism define this forceful, representative painting.

The resulting effect is that of a crowd of shouting, echoing, responding voices. The repetitions, variations, cross-outs, and spelling mistakes are reminiscent of graffiti.

Man from Naples was inspired by his visit to Italy in 1982 and reflects the artist’s feelings of resentment toward his wealthy Italian patron, whom he scornfully refers to as a “pork merchant” and other unflattering epithets.

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