Jean-Michel Basquiat – Horn Players 1983


Two famous men from the history of Jazz appear in Basquiat’s Horn Players, 1983: Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. In the upper left, Parker, whose nickname was “Bird,” holds his alto saxophone while Gillespie appears on the right with a trumpet. Basquiat’s painting is a tribute to jazz, specifically the bebop of Parker and Gillespie, and makes its tribute known by both rounding up the symbols and visual references of jazz while at the same deploying those references in a way as though to recreate music itself. The three-panel work is full of repetition and visual punctuations. Art historian Robert Farris Thompson likens the multiple slashes of white paint across the surfaces to visual music, they “form their own beat, one, two, one-two-three. This is the clave beat, the main artery of Afro-Cuban music.” Overall, the painting has a sense of rhythms emerging and then fading away, emerging again and recombining as though demonstrating the improvisation of jazz.


Jean-Michel Basquiat – Horn Players 1983

Acrylic and oilstick on three canvas panels mounted on wood.


243.8 x 190.5 cm