Beef Ribs Longhorn
© The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/ADAGP, Paris/ARS, New York 2014
My name is Thomas Houseago.
Beef Ribs Longhorn, by Jean‐Michel Basquiat from 1982. You know, America in the '80s, it's pop, and he's coming from a world of graffiti, of street art that is in some ways reacting to and starting to break down the hard-edged removal of the hand, removal of the person that pop had become. That it was printing, it was mass reproduction, it was MTV, it was advertising. In a way, Basquiat is part of a generation that's, again, resisting this, and playing with it in a different way that, say, Andy Warhol did, then went to Jeff Koons, and went to this side where its heart is pop. Its heart is the mass reproduction. Its heart is the machine-made image. Basquiat is twisting and turning that. He's bending it. He's showing its human soul in a way.
This language of pop, this language of graffiti, this language of street culture that has been taken and turned into a selling point, or its own kind of industry in a way, this painting stands as a warning against that, as a refusal, again, to enter a simplistic reading of where the figure is, or where the reading of how we are as humans, how we're dealing with our world, it doesn't sit comfortably. You start to look at this longhorn livestock, and suddenly it's this monstrous image of this animal, and this almost sick, almost terrifying dream, that nightmarish vision. It's a beast, and a demon, and an animal, and a human without a doubt. These things get jumbled and pulled together.
Still, it is a stand-in. It is a really terrifying ... Within it is this huge complexity of livestock, of something being born, of something being doomed. You feel it in that piece, but you also feel there's something demonic about that creature, that it will have its revenge somehow, right?