Announcement: Basquiat Lecture at Wits

As part of the Wits Anthropology Seminar Series, Dr. Johanna F. Almiron presents the lecture, Now’s the Time: Social Statements in the Art of Basquiat.

As part of the Wits Anthropology Seminar Series, Dr. Johanna F. Almiron presents the lecture, Now’s the Time: Social Statements in the Art of Basquiat. Jean-Michel Basquiat was a prolific visual and performance artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent who emerged as an iconoclast during New York City’s art boom in the late nineteen-seventies and eighties. Pivoting away from popular media’s tendency to mythologize Basquiat’s celebrity allure or to discuss the artwork’s value solely as an art market commodity, Dr. Almiron analyzes thematic symbols and narratives in Basquiat's paintings through the lens of social history and cultural politics, paying particular attention to his treatment of topics like race and social inequality. This lecture will focus on Basquiat's portrays of police officers, racial violence and state terror, in the paintings, Death of Michael Stewart (1983), Irony of a Negro Policeman (1981) and La Hara (1981). These paintings speak to the spectacular history of police brutality in the political and cultural context of New York City in the early 1980s. During this period, municipal policies reinforced the criminalization of graffiti art and institutionalized racial profiling. Dr. Almiron argues that Basquiat's legacy persists due to the artwork's ability to visually represent the historical memory of these experiences; moreover, it also acts as a meta-commentary on how such social catastrophes are rendered visible or invisible in the larger cultural sphere.

Johanna F. Almiron is currently a visiting researcher in the Anthropology department at Wits University. Dr. Almiron received her doctorate in American Studies at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (2013) with specialties in visual culture and Black cultural studies. Dr. Almiron has written catalog texts for Rush Arts Gallery and Resource Center (NYC), LAX Arts (Los Angeles) and Saltworks Gallery (Atlanta). She was also the Pre-Doctoral Fellow at the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African American Studies the University of Rochester (2009-2010). An award-winning performance artist and radio host, Almiron received her Master’s degree in performance studies at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University and undergraduate degree in African American Studies, Fine Arts-Dance from Oberlin College.

Date: 29 August 2013
Time: 11:30- 13:00
Venue: Wits Anthropology Museum, on the ground floor in Central Block (next to CB15)
Enquiries: Hylton White at hylton.white@wits.ac.za

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