Jean Michel died prematurely, sadly under the influence of drugs. He was a middle-class, mixed race New Yorker (Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother) who spoke French and Italian as well as English, and in his short life he produced some of the most interesting art I have come across. I find myself completely seduced by the colour, verve, message, and excitement of his work which speak to me at a visceral level. He was working in the 1980s, and is famous partly because he collaborated with Andy Warhol.
This painting, which is seen towards the start of the exhibition is called The Irony of the Negro Policeman. It doesn’t really need explaining. The white wash over the painting is scratched away showing red and blue underneath. Many of his paintings are covered in words, many crossed out to draw attention to them. Some are foreign words, word play, musical words, words linked in the mind of an eclectic reader and traveller, sometimes heightened by drugs.
This is a self-portrait. I love the hair/crown, the black/brown skin, the use of red, white and blue. It is also about the city.
The very strong use of colour, and oil sticks, is so appealing. Another strong, black man. This time a boxer. With a crown, a weapon; dominant; energetic.
Here is another painting of a man’s head, a very beautiful interpretation of black mindsets perhaps. So much pressure, inside and outside; music, violence, industrial landscapes, destruction, private property, fear, anger, beauty, understanding.