Does anybody REMEMBER the ’90s? Like really remember them? Was it really all “rolling with the homies” and “pink like a Deco umbrella”, whatever the he** a “Deco umbrella” is? No… it was record gun violence to date surfacing in 1990, it was sadistic TV figures making fun of Nancy Kerrigan for how she wailed after that merciless clubbing (and then of course we get a biopic attempting to extol Tanya Harding… go figure), it was Thom Yorke expressing “I wish it was the ’60s” (which might have been a stupid thing to say in its own right)… it was AIDS… ok, and a saxophone-playing, weed-smoking president. We’ll give it that.
Grunge was born out of isolation and desperation (as Hype! reports bands actually stopped coming to Seattle in the ’80s on the national circuit), but I’m talking today about the center of everything, New York City, and the birth of visual “neo-expressionism.” Wikipedia will define said style as having been “characterized by intense subjectivity and rough handling of materials.” Oh, that should explain it. Well, I’d like to offer one modification on this: one look at Basquiat’s rhapsodic “Hollywood Africans” painting tells that it was actually borne out of the struggling condition of black people in America — the prototypical “hip-hop” look of the caricatured faces offered, the incessant verbosity of the title’s repetition and the “seven stars” offering to show how garishly overqualified Afro-Americans can often be in the endeavor of capturing an exciting zeitgeist to pervade their home away from home. The astute reader will notice Tennessee Williams’ plaint of a “spiritual death ray” running through Hollywood — call Basquiat, a native Puerto Rican/Haitian turned New Yorker, a more unflinching muse to truly lasso the incessancy of California, the constant waterfall of demand, the insatiability of Americans’ need for entertainment, which we saw come to dystopic fruition in the ’90s, without any doubt, following Basquiat’s New York heroin overdose at 27.