LOS ANGELES — Nobody breaks rules like artists and now museums are breaking them too. Still closed to the public, The Broad has been challenged with coming up with new ways to engage the community, so they collaborated with Alyssa Lein Smith, VP of Business for Quincy Jones Productions, on a series of videos examining the ways music influenced the work of the late artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat.
“I think music in general just speaks a universal language, so it doesn't matter if you know the ins-and-outs of it, it all can relay some type of message,” said Smith. “So for punk, when I hear that word, it kind of makes me think of the rebels and the people who are not necessarily breaking the rules, but just pushing them.”
Admiring a work called “Obnoxious Liberals” painted in 1982, Smith notes the anti-capitalist message and compares it with punk music. But it’s jazz where she sees the most influence on Basquiat's work, so they invited jazz and bebop musician Terrace Martin to make the connection in one of the videos.
“I truly can’t help but to hear what Basquiat was painting and as a jazz fan myself, it’s extremely fun to see his depiction of bebop,” said Smith. “Bebop is a restlessly inventive genre and I think as we look at his painting, he was able to reflect that within his art as well.”
The Broad has its entire collection of Basquiat paintings, 13 in total, installed in the main gallery, some on view for the very first time. Unfortunately due to the pandemic, the only way to see them is online so they produced short documentary videos with musicians and scholars to shed light on how punk and no wave, jazz and hip-hop influenced the artist.
Ed Patuto is the director of audience engagement for The Broad.
“When you look at an artist like Basquiat who was both a DJ, he had a band called Gray, a no wave band, he painted, he tagged, he was a graffiti artist,” said Patuto. “He was in a sense a Renaissance man of his time.”
Basquiat once said, “Art is how we decorate space. Music is how we decorate time.” For an artist known for New York, his influence is still felt in L.A. decades later.
“Art and music are both forms of expression and I think that’s the purest way to tell you how they relate,” said Smith. “They are a way for us to express ourselves and share pieces of our heart to the world and to people that will come after us.”
Basquiat decorated both hearts and minds.