Executed in colourful bursts of red and blue, this work on paper hails from Jean-Michel Basquiat’s celebrated series of ‘Famous Negro Athletes’. The artist depicts a baseball player with a cap and bat, perhaps portraying the groundbreaking athlete Hank Aaron, whom Basquiat often referenced in his work. Challenging Western histories, Basquiat honoured black men as heroes and kings, signified by the crown in the upper left.
For the Californian artist Sam Francis, colour was the real substance, rather than drawing or line. Painted in 1973, Untitled is taken from his series of ‘grid’ paintings, exhibiting a loose scaffolding of colourful overlying drips. Interestingly, trips to Tokyo during the 1970s fostered Francis’s interest in the calligraphic nature of paint, visible in this work on paper.
In this meditative example from Mark Grotjahn’s sought-after ‘Butterfly’ series, the artist concentrates on a radiant motif of brilliantly diverging lines. Fusing past and present through his conflation of off-kilter Renaissance perspective and hard-edged modernism, Grotjahn evokes a spiritual response using an extremely complex and layered working process.
John Chamberlain saw material in other people’s idea of waste, using aluminium pie tins, pieces of automobiles and scrap metal in his abstract and gestural sculptures. Untitled, from 1981, is a rare example of his foam pieces, signed by the artist and distorted by wrapping spray-painted paper around its mid-section. Much like the artist’s distinctive metal sculptures, the result captures Chamberlain’s lifelong interest in the pliability of material.
Executed in the thick outlines that mark Keith Haring’s signature graphic style, Untitled depicts a bulbous many-legged creature whose brain has been replaced by a computer, being ridden by a faceless figure. In today’s tech-obsessed and tech-dependent society, Haring’s image is as prescient as ever before.
Simultaneously cute and disturbing, Takashi Murakami’s ubiquitous smiling, psychedelic flowers have become synonymous with the artist himself. The subject embodies the concept of kawaii in Japanese popular culture, although when seen in excess, the flowers can also become menacing.
Sam Gilliam radicalised the medium of painting in the 1970s, removing the canvas from the stretcher and its support in his famed ‘drape’ paintings. Canyon #2 is representative of Gilliam’s style of pouring and pooling paint onto the surface of the medium, in this case, handmade paper. Prominently placed in this year’s Venice Biennale, Gilliam is also the subject of a career-spanning exhibition at Mnuchin Gallery — the artist’s first New York show in 32 years — and is highly coveted in the art market.
KAWS’ street-born, cartoonish iconography, often incorporating figures with X-ed out eyes, has become its own subculture — with collaborators ranging from Kanye West to Marc Jacobs and including limited-edition Air Jordans. His clown-like Companion figures, based on the image of Mickey Mouse, are among his most collectible works.
George Condo’s portraits are at once contemporary and historical, including references from European classicism to American subcultures. In a nod to Picasso’s famed bathers, Condo depicts a faceless figure in a sculptural yet angular form, with arms raised against a red-hot background.
Over the course of a 40-year career, Sarah Charlesworth investigated the role that images play in our culture by isolating forms against monochromatic backgrounds. Along with Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman, she was part of a group of artists working in New York City who probed the visual language of mass media and advertising. With a recent career retrospective at the New Museum in New York in 2015, Charlesworth remains an important figure in contemporary photography.
The result of an exacting process, Damien Hirst’s Spot prints pushed the boundaries of the medium. Cupric Bromide, produced in 2012, draws upon this motif, which was first introduced during Hirst’s seminal 1988 Frieze exhibition and is now considered a hallmark of the artist’s practice.