"A successful collaboration is always the result of a successful relationship. The paintings are the physical proof of the harmony that existed beyond the canvas." - Keith Haring
Warhol, whose career exploded in the 1960s with magazine advertisements and illustrations of American consumerism, recognized Basquiat as an essential vehicle into the unfamiliar terrain of the 80's art market. By the time their collaborations began, Basquiat was already considered an extremely influential artist and played a vital role in the acceptance of raw graffiti as an art form. As improbable the pair may be - Warhol an educated Pop artist from Pittsburgh and Basquiat a high school dropout from Brooklyn - both managed to find a genuine connection in the radical dissimilarity visible to the outside world. Good friend and fellow artist Keith Haring wrote, "The relationship was built on mutual respect. Each had a fascination with the other's impenetrable shell. The mystery that was Warhol was challenged by the complexities that were Basquiat."
Both artists channeled their responses towards cultural prejudices and discrimination into creative nourishment and independent success. Basquiat charged his work with childlike images, words, symbols and references to African American history. The diverse elements merge together and feverishly respond to the stereotypes he experienced as a black man in America. Warhol primarily focused on themes that reflected commercialism, mass reproduction and his personal fascination with celebrity and power.
In Poison/Eel, Warhol depicts a black skull reminiscent of the Skull series executed in 1976. A response to the societal obsession with wealth, power and beauty, Warhol presents a series of skulls to reaffirm the reality of what lies beneath when material and monetary layers are stripped away--representing what remains in literal anatomical form. To continue, or perhaps complete this discourse on identity, Basquiat adds a copyright symbol--a sign of protection and recognition reoccurring in most of his independent work.