Art Stroll

Art Stroll: Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks


My friend Karen and I went on an art stroll recently and checked out the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. Rene Ricard, an American poet, art critic and painter once said: “If Cy Twombly and Jean Debuffet had a baby and gave it up for adoption it would be Jean-Michel. The elegance of Cy Twombly is there …and so is the brut of the young Debuffet”. I can see that – and I am drawn to all three of those artists.


Basqiuat stated once that he uses words like brushstrokes. They are visual key elements of his artwork. He explored strategies such as inverted spelling, crossing out certain words and the repetition of text in his notebooks, which were the highlight of this exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum.


Basquiat used words not only for their descriptive quality – he would also use them for their lyrical qualities.


He emphasized repeating words and letters for their sounds and meaning.


Basquiat produced a huge number of notebooks. Some of the pages only contain one sentence or word and he generally left the opposite side of each page blank.



One of the things Basquiat said about his own artwork stuck to me the most: “I cross out words so you will see them more. The fact that they are obscured makes you want to read them.”




I also loved is use of collage elements and mark making.



His works are often fragments of overheard conversations or isolated phrases – like the one below. Used in different contexts these conversation pieces or phrases can activate a wide and complex range of possible narratives – how intriguing.


The work shown in the exhibition wasn’t his most colorful work – which I am usually more drawn too but the pages with words and little scribbles and drawings used for the background were so compelling and interesting, I couldn’t stop looking at them.


I felt very inspired by this exhibition and will show you soon how I translated some of this inspiration into my own work.


By the way, if you like Jean-Michel Basquiat and haven’t seen the Movie “Radiant Child” yet – I highly recommend it. It is a wonderful homage to Basquiat and also a great document of the 80s New York City art scene.

Do you keep a notebook where you jot down ideas for your art work? For me my notebook is my art journal as this is where ideas are tested out and noted ready to maybe taken out for bigger surfaces later.

Hope you enjoyed this art stroll!


Comments (1)

  • Sue Clarke


    So true about wanting to read the crossed out words.
    The page with “sometime” on it really struck me for some reason. Maybe I saw it as a prompt to certain thoughts.
    I have several notebooks which contain words that I consider noteworthy (one for quotes that I like and one that I carry in my purse to jot down ideas or thoughts that I want to capture).
    Hope you have a nice Labor Day weekend Nat!


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Art Stroll: FAILE: Savage/Sacred Young Minds Exhibition


My friend Karen and I went on a daylong Art Stroll hitting the Brooklyn Museum as well as the Whitney Museum last week – It was pretty cool. Our first stop was the “Faile: Savage Sacred Young Minds” Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum which was an unplanned surprise. The exhibition speaks to Faile’s (Artists Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller) “interest in youth culture and it’s often coherent contradictions. Young minds insatiably search for meaning but they also rebel against sanctioned systems in order to create their own language that is at once sacred and profane”.

Disclaimer: This post includes photos of limestone boobs and profane language …get over it, it is called ART . If you have a problem with art, you might be better off looking at something else . Don’t email me to complain, don’t visit my blog anymore because I might post things like this again and, farewell!



These two big acrylic and silkscreen on canvases were part of a series of six and very enthralling. I love the layering, collage, poster and color effects.




In the middle of the room under the rotunda was a an installation called: temple. Mimicking the ruins of an ancient house of worship which you were invited to enter. The temple was built with ceramic, marble, bronze, cast iron steel and limestone. It really did remind me of some of the temples that I visited last year in Malaysia and Hong Kong.




It was an interesting experience to walk around and into the temple, familiar and traditional religious elements were juxtaposed with modern and present mythology. It took often times a double take to realize that something that looks familiar was resembling something else then expected. Inside the temple were spinning prayer wheels like those used by Tibetan Buddhists in daily spiritual practice.


It was fun to touch those prayer wheels and spin them finding different messages and enjoying the tactile dimension of the art.




I was very intrigued and amazed by the craftsmanship of this work – it just blew me away.





The FAILE & BÄST Deluxx Fluxx Arcade, an interactive environment came next.


The installation was created in “collaboration with Brooklyn artist Bäst that includes video games, pinball machines, and foosball tables that are simultaneously sculptures and functioning games. The installation is a nostalgic nod to video arcades and punk rock and graffiti culture.”


Besides the wall and floor covered neon posters and tiles, you were also surrounded by the Arcade sound. This one had a physical effect on me. While I wasn’t disliking it, I felt sick and confused – everything was competing to get my attention and it just made me want to get out of there.



But not before I was able to focus on some smaller details- again – this just amazed me. LOVE.


I enjoyed walking this exhibition with Karen, seeing her sometimes similar and sometimes very different reactions and I loved how we would point out different things to each other that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. I was fascinated and overwhelmed by the exhibition. I am definitely inspired by many small elements …but it made me feel like I missed out on seeing the bigger picture. It was the same feeling I often times have in regards to NYC – I love it and sometimes I hate it. You always miss out on something, you are intrigued and sometimes you detest it, it is loud, it wants your attention, it doesn’t care if you care. It can inspire but it can also overwhelm you. It gives a fly if you enjoy it – you take what you can, if you want. Maybe that is exactly what this exhibition was about.

What do you think?

Hope you enjoyed the Art Stroll – more from this day to come soon :)


Comments (10)

  • Carolyn


    This was an exceptional sneak peak into a fascinating art exhibit. How wonderful for you to experience this in person and then share it. Your definition of NYC was so real, honest and true…I think that is the draw to the City. Thank you so much, only wish I could get up there to see it in person.


  • Joi@RR


    Your first and last paragraphs were amazing alliterations Nat. Wow. I read them both to hubby twice – trying to get the images of what you were saying clear in our minds!! So true – youth minds and insatiable search for meaning… but then again… does that ever end???!!! And then your comparing the exhibit to N.Y. – wow – that was incredible. Not to forget… the wonderful pictures you took for us. Loved seeing them. The temple was incredible. All the art is. And the video arcade – my brothers used to love to LIVE there when we were kids but it always made me feel weird – like someone was sucking the air out of me!!! So I understand a bit how you felt! BUT… so glad you took pictures – they are so interesting. GREAT POST Nat. Loved it all. Thanks bunches. j.


    • Nathalie Kalbach


      thank you so much Joi, I am so glad you enjoyed the art stroll! Love your analogy to sucking the air out!


  • Sue Clarke


    I love temple and would really like to spend some time in it!
    The fluorescent room would hurt my eyes.
    THANKS so much for the tour Nat.


    • Nathalie Kalbach


      LOL- I hear you on the hurting eyes- neon is cool in small quantities :) you would have loved the temple- I am sure if someone goes several times every time something new gets revealed.


  • Karen D


    Loved this post! Thanks for sharing this amazing experience, would really love to see this exhibition. A very interesting combination of installations, as you said, it seems both fascinating and overwhelming at the same time.


  • Jackie


    WOW! How long must it have taken to assemble such an exhibit?
    I totally get what you mean about the fluorescent room- my head is spinning just viewing from here!
    thanks for taking us along Nat!


    • Nathalie Kalbach


      so glad you liked it Jackie! Yes- it must have taken forever – crazy to think this is not permanent.


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