Jean-Michel Basquiat's subject matter in his brief but highly productive career includes autobiographical elements, black heroes from the sport and music world, and graffiti signs and symbols. However, in the present painting, Basquiat portrays his close friend and mentor Andy Warhol. He rarely depicted people close to him, especially someone who influenced his personal life as much as Warhol.
Basquiat met Warhol through his girlfriend at the time, Paige Powell, an editor at Interview magazine. The relationship between both artists soon flourished and Basquiat leased a proper studio from Warhol on Great Jones Street in Soho. They soon became very close and began to exercise together, paint each others portraits and discuss philosophies of life in general. At the endeavour of dealer Bruno Bischofberger, Basquiat and Warhol began to collaborate on a series of paintings. René Ricard describes what the two artists meant to each other: "Andy represented to Jean the "Good White Father" Jean had been searching for since his teenage years. Jean's mother has always been a mystery to me. I never met her. She lives in a hospital, emerging infrequently, to my knowledge. Andy did her portrait. She and Andy were the most important people in Jean's life. I think I would say that Andy and Jean were each the best thing that ever happened to the other. Jean never recovered from Andy's death". (in: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York 1992, p. 49)
René Ricard believed Warhol's diaries were a great biographical source of Basquiat's life and adds: "In the Diaries, Warhol quotes Bruno saying something to the effect that he didn't like the silkscreens in Jean's paintings because they interfered with his "natural primitivism". Jean primitive? I always thought of Jean as the most sophisticated painter..."(ibid. p. 49)
By 1938, the year Hallop was painted, Basquiat was well established as an artist in New York. This same year a number of his works were exhibited at the Biennal exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, alongside the works of forty other young artists, many of whom were showing for the first time in a New York museum. Among them were his close friends Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, David Salle and Cindy Sherman. Basquiat, only 22 years old at the time, was one of the youngest.
In Hallop, Basquiat depicts a building representing Warhol's famous "factory", and next to it a scrawny looking Warhol with shock hair wig. Both elements are set against a fiery red and yellow background painted in patches throughout the canvas, giving the appearance of a city in flames. A highly sensitive artist and social thinker, Basquiat was tormented by everything that surrounded him.
Basquiat's style derives from the many artistic sensibilities that were coexisting in the late 1970's and early 1980's. A reaction to the long phase of Minimalist domination exploded, and Basquiat was one artist who turned to the vocabulary of the masters from the Abstract Expressionist movement, especially Jackson Pollock. He admired Pollock's densely overpainted and overlapping shapes and figures. He also admired Twombly's looping doodles and elegant handwriting, but he extended Twombly's investigation of the relationship between painting and gesture and written language. Basquiat's visceral receptivity not only brought back into the canvas like Twombly, but also brought some of Pollock's lyrical passion back into painting.