Recording artist 5th Child in front of the Basquiat. More from him at 5thchildmusic.co
Jean-Michel Basquiat's 1985 painting, Natchez, has a limited-time engagement in the Mississippi Museum of Art's bicentennial exhibition, Picturing Mississippi, 1817-2017: Land of Plenty, Pain, and Promise (the Basquiat is only on view through December 26; exhibition on view through July 8, 2018).
We asked a local rapper to make sense of it.
Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988), Natchez, 1985. acrylic, wood, and color Xeroxes on plywood mounted on wooden doors. 85 x 602∕3 in. Mugrabi Collection.
"Is it about Natchez, you may wonder?," asks Elizabeth Abston, Curator of the Collection. "Perhaps, but with Basquiat there’s almost always a larger picture connected to the theme. Does the name 'Natchez' itself evoke a particular image to you, and is this the imagery you think about? In this case, viewers in Mississippi become the 'cultural insiders,' bringing our intimate knowledge of Natchez into our understanding of the piece. We look for meaning, but Basquiat is not one to allow for quick or easy interpretations."
Part of CAPE's role is to make these artworks relevant and memorable to contemporary audiences, even when the pieces are only here for a short time. The dialogue that Mississippians have with an artwork reverberates beyond the predefined scope of an exhibition or an art loan.
Our emissary for distilling Mississippi meaning from Basquiat's Natchez was Jackson producer and recording artist 5th Child, who studied the work and notebooks of the mercurial artist, and performed an original piece at the Museum on December 12. The release, "Basquiat Drift," is featured below as CAPE's first (and hopefully not last) music video. Written in the span of one night, "Basquiat Drift" merges Basquiat's collaged references with the perceptions and experiences of a man immersed in the Mississippi moment.
5th Child's references pulled from The Notebooks by Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Hear where he's coming from:
Click here for the "Basquiat Drift" lyric sheet.
"Basquiat's legacy is marked by over a thousand paintings and drawings created just inside a decade, and his graffiti-based, counter-cultural style marks him as one of the art world's most celebrated, commercially exploited, and now critically embraced artistic voices of the 20th century. But don’t let words like graffiti or counter-culture fool you: he was very strategic in how he employed the written word as a medium, and his compositions are masterful, with personal symbolism, color, and line evoking his internal experiences as outward revelations."
- Elizabeth Abston, Curator of the Collection, Mississippi Museum of Art