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En mémoire des Hollywood Africans

Toxic Basquiat Rammellzee

 

19/05/2017 > 21/06/2017

Toxic, Four Four Spring, 2017
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Matisse, Matisse, Matisse, 1983
Rammellzee, Atomic Notes, 1986

En décembre 1982 Basquiat doit se rendre à Los Angeles pour préparer son exposition à la galerie Gagosian. Ses deux amis graffeurs new yorkais, Toxic et Rammellzee se joignent à lui pour partager cette expérience sur la côte ouest.

 

C’est en évoluant dans les rues de la ville du 7ème art qu’ils prennent conscience de la très discutable représentation des afro-américains dans le cinéma. Forts de ce constat, ils décident de tourner en dérision les clichés de l’industrie cinématographique et s’auto-proclament « Hollywood Africans » sur le parvis du Chinese Theatre situé sur Hollywood Boulevard.

 

Leur démarche - boutade politique et sociale - illustre l’ironie et la pertinence qui les caractérisent. Ils font là un pied de nez aux codes, notamment à ceux imposés par Hollywood, qui cantonnent les personnages afros-américains dans des rôles stéréotypés souvent joués par des acteurs blancs maquillés en noirs. Les différentes adaptations de La Case de l’Oncle Tom – roman retraçant l’histoire d’une famille d’esclaves dans le sud des Etats-Unis - incarnent les normes et clichés associés aux afro-américains.

 

Basquiat, Rammellzee et Toxic qui progressent dans un milieu artistique new yorkais où ils bénéficient d’une réelle notoriété sont frappés par le contraste entre les stéréotypes concernant les rôles des Afro-américains à Hollywood et la vie éclairée dans le New York underground. Les trois artistes vont se nourrir de ces dissonances pour réaliser différents projets (performances, musique, etc.) qui exprimeront toute la dérision de leur constat.

 

Les Hollywood Africans c’est l’immortalisation d’un moment clef entre trois personnalités puissantes et bien distinctes qui partagent des valeurs et luttes communes. Leurs parcours diffèrent, cependant un fil rouge qui marquera l’histoire de l’Art Contemporain les réunit. L’iconoclasme et la complexité sont une grande constante qui caractérise l’œuvre des trois artistes. Leurs univers pluridisciplinaires s’inscrivent dans les fondements de l’art urbain et de la culture hip-hop. Que reste-il aujourd’hui de l’héritage des Hollywood Africans?

 

La remise en cause de leur place en tant qu’artistes afro-américains résonne dans la démarche de chacun d’entre eux. Ils se sont affranchis des valeurs dominantes en se forgeant une identité propre teintée de mystère encore aujourd’hui.
En effet, l’influence et les problématiques liées à l’Afrique sont omniprésentes dans les travaux de Basquiat. Enfant radieux mort à vingt-sept ans, sa renommée s’intensifie mais les mystères liés à ses œuvres persistent encore aujourd’hui, près de trente ans après sa disparition.

 

Avec Rammellzee, les questionnements s’inscrivent dans le mouvement afro-futuriste, le rappeur du Queens ayant un ancrage plus radical dans cette pensée.
Et enfin Toxic est le témoin contemporain des Hollywood Africans. Figure emblématique du graffiti des années 1980, il continue à tracer la voie. En effet, par sa présence majeure sur la scène internationale institutionnelle, il participe à l’essor et à la reconnaissance de ce mouvement qu’il incarne historiquement. 
 
Dès lors, cette exposition a pour ambition d’être une interprétation contemporaine de ce que fut le rassemblement de ces 3 grands artistes, de faire un pont entre hier et aujourd’hui et de rendre hommage à l’audace et la dérision de ces artistes majeurs qui ont marqué leur époque et continuent d’exercer une influence incontestable et une fascination sur les contemporains.

 

 

In December 1982, Basquiat had to go to Los Angeles to prepare his exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery. His two graffiti artist friends joined him in his West Coast experience.

 

When wandering the streets of the City of Angels they got struck by the arguable representation of Afro-Americans in the film industry. With this in mind, they decided to mock the clichés of the cinema and call themselves « Hollywood Africans » in front of the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.

 

Their approach – political and social mockery – reflects the irony and relevance that characterize them. They play with the codes, especially the one that Hollywood imposes by only showing Afro-Americans in stereotyped characters and often played by white actors with a make-up that makes them seem black. The different cinematographic adaptations of the book Uncle Tom's Cabin – story of a slave family in the South of the United States – embody the norms and clichés associated with Afro-Americans.

 

Basquiat, Rammellzee and Toxic whom were part of a New York artistic world where they were recognized, were dismayed by the stereotypes regarding Afro-Americans in contrast to their illuminated life in the underground New York. These disparities will be a source of inspiration in their work.

 

« Hollywood Africans » is the immortalization of a key moment between three powerful and different artists that share common values and fights. Their paths are distinct, nevertheless a red string that will mark art history gathers them. Iconoclasm and complexity are a constant that characterizes the works of the three artists. Their multidisciplinary universes are part of the corner stones of the urban art and the hip-hop culture. What remains of the Hollywood Africans heritage today?

 

The way they question their identity as Afro-Americans is very present in their respective approach. Their identities are free of social dogmas and tainted with mystery which still remains today.

Indeed, the influence and the questions related to Africa are ubiquitous in Basquiat’s works. The radiant child died at 27 years, his recognition is still increasing but the mysteries linked to his works remain even today, after almost thirty years after his death.

With Rammellzee, these interrogations are part of the afro-futurist movements, the rapper from the Queens has a strong rooting in this movement.

And finally, Toxic is the contemporary witness of the Hollywood Africans. Figurehead of the graffiti culture in the 1980’s, he keeps on developing the path. Indeed, with his presence on the international institutional scene, he is part of the development and recognition of this movement that he historically embodies.

 

Thus, this exhibition aims to be a contemporary interpretation of what was the gathering of these three great artists, to offer a link between yesterday and today and to pay tribute to their fearlessness and derision. They have marked their time, their influence and fascination from the contemporary artists are still undeniable.

In December 1982, Basquiat had to go to Los Angeles to prepare his exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery. His two graffiti artist friends joined him in his West Coast experience.

 

When wandering the streets of the City of Angels they got struck by the arguable representation of Afro-Americans in the film industry. With this in mind, they decided to mock the clichés of the cinema and call themselves « Hollywood Africans » in front of the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.

 

Their approach – political and social mockery – reflects the irony and relevance that characterize them. They play with the codes, especially the one that Hollywood imposes by only showing Afro-Americans in stereotyped characters and often played by white actors with a make-up that makes them seem black. The different cinematographic adaptations of the book Uncle Tom's Cabin – story of a slave family in the South of the United States – embody the norms and clichés associated with Afro-Americans.

 

Basquiat, Rammellzee and Toxic whom were part of a New York artistic world where they were recognized, were dismayed by the stereotypes regarding Afro-Americans in contrast to their illuminated life in the underground New York. These disparities will be a source of inspiration in their work.

 

« Hollywood Africans » is the immortalization of a key moment between three powerful and different artists that share common values and fights. Their paths are distinct, nevertheless a red string that will mark art history gathers them. Iconoclasm and complexity are a constant that characterizes the works of the three artists. Their multidisciplinary universes are part of the corner stones of the urban art and the hip-hop culture. What remains of the Hollywood Africans heritage today?

 

The way they question their identity as Afro-Americans is very present in their respective approach. Their identities are free of social dogmas and tainted with mystery which still remains today.

Indeed, the influence and the questions related to Africa are ubiquitous in Basquiat’s works. The radiant child died at 27 years, his recognition is still increasing but the mysteries linked to his works remain even today, after almost thirty years after his death.

With Rammellzee, these interrogations are part of the afro-futurist movements, the rapper from the Queens has a strong rooting in this movement.

And finally, Toxic is the contemporary witness of the Hollywood Africans. Figurehead of the graffiti culture in the 1980’s, he keeps on developing the path. Indeed, with his presence on the international institutional scene, he is part of the development and recognition of this movement that he historically embodies.

 

Thus, this exhibition aims to be a contemporary interpretation of what was the gathering of these three great artists, to offer a link between yesterday and today and to pay tribute to their fearlessness and derision. They have marked their time, their influence and fascination from the contemporary artists are still undeniable.

.

©Basquiat, Hollywood Africans 1983 exposée au ©Whitney Museum New York, relate la virée hollywoodienne des artistes Toxic, Basquiat et Rammellzee
©wladsimitchphotography
Toxic et Nadège Buffe sur le plateau de Jean-Pierre Elkabbach pour une “Bibliothèque Médicis” exceptionnelle dédiée au Graffiti et au Street Art.
 
Pour revoir l’émission : cliquer ici
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© Galerie Taglialatella