Art History | FBF: Remembering Andy Warhol & Basquiat’s 1984 Olympics Collab

August 19, 2016  |  Art, Culture

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It’s widely known that Pop Art impresario AndyWarhol and his downtown protege Jean-Michel Basquiat created an epic series of collaborative paintings between 1983 and 1985 (largely, in an effort by Warhol to get reconnected with the zeitgeist of modern times that JMB was channeling so effortlessly). The paintings that resulted from their collaboration celebrated their respective aesthetic style and production processes while creating a fresh and unprecedented body of work. Few people, however, remember the works Olympics & Olympic Rings that were among the paintings they produced together, inspired by the 1984 Summer Olympic Games held in Los Angeles, the works were some of the most compelling Olympic-themed artworks ever produced, and largely unseen to this day.

From Gagosian Gallery:

At the suggestion of Swiss dealer Bruno Bischofberger, Warhol and Basquiat worked on a series of collaborative paintings between 1983 and 1985. Basquiat had always idolized Warhol and, in turn, Warhol was invigorated by the younger artist’s charismatic intelligence and vibrant energy. The paintings that resulted from their collaboration celebrated their respective aesthetic style and production processes while creating a fresh and unprecedented body of work. Olympic Rings was among the paintings they produced together, inspired by the 1984 Summer Olympic Games held in Los Angeles.

Warhol’s contribution to the collaborations can be seen in his distinctive technique of hand-painting ready-made iconography, an early practice that he revived with Basquiat. In the case of Olympic Rings, he made several variations of the Olympic five-ring symbol, rendered in the original primary colors. Basquiat responded to the abstract, stylized logos with his oppositional graffiti style. Between clusters of Warhol’s Olympic rings, he imposed a bold, dark, mask-like head, like a medallion in a link chain, undoubtedly an allusion to African-American star athletes of past Olympic Games, such as Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos.

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