“Do not despise my opinion, when I remind you that it should not be hard for you to stop sometimes and look into the stains of walls, or the ashes of a fire, or clouds, or mud or like places, in which, if you consider them well, you may find really marvelous ideas. “ – Leonardo Da Vinci : A Treatise on Painting. Codex Urbinas written between 1482-1519 & Published 1651
One fine Sunday we made plans to venture out into the dystopian landscape of sunny Los Angeles to visit the Mr. Brainwash Art Museum in the posh city of Beverly Hills. A Pop Up museum with plans to travel, it sits in a bustling area and more so on this day when a crowded art fair was open across the street in a park.
The moniker Mr. Brainwash, a “nom de guerre” & artistic persona, was spawned out of the 2010 documentary movie, Exit Through the Gift Shop, which is a fascinating story in itself about an art genre they call “Street Art”.
A newer label of art branding, "Street Art" is considered a subgenre of Graffiti or maybe it’s vice versa . Since the term Graffito (to scratch or draw unto walls) has been around since humanity began, then it’s probably the former. Mr. Brainwash calls his own movement by the label "Street Pop" and the museum houses some of his oeuvre since he entered the arena of Pop.
A man larger than the life itself, Mr. Brainwash not only evolves as a work of living art & a busy artist brimming with "ideas" but is also a skillful raconteur who already knows the game well. He seems to be having fun doing it because for him -- Life is Beautiful.
Two important American artists (both long dead) not mentioned in the amazing Exit Through the Gift Shop movie yet seem to play an inspirationally important role in the Mr. Brainwash Art Museum concept is Artist/Activist Keith Haring (1958-1990) & Neo Expressionist artist Jean Michel Basquiat (1960-1988). Both are NYC artists who exploded like rockets into the 1980’s art world money speculation scene yet sadly both succumbed as the decade closed in on their short burst. Both careers began and ended on the same NYC streets as artists of the graffiti subculture (Street Art) and their resultant infamy catapulted them both into worldwide fame.
Starting in 1980, Haring’s animated simple cartoon like imagery first drawn in white chalk on blank black subway advertisements, was seen by millions of people on the NYC subways before most people knew what it even meant or even who was doing it.
What is it advertising? Strange lined figures dancing or gesturing up at flying saucers, a radiant baby, many radiant babies, more figures running around a barking dog...
From 1980 to 1985 it is estimated that Haring drew over 5,000 images in the NYC subways alone and this helped launch a highly successful art career. Haring even opened a NYC retail store called the Pop Shop to purvey his wares he had produced.
Artist Basquiat meanwhile first gathered infamy (along with his art collaborator friend Al Diaz) with the creation of a fake religion under the tag of SAMO. The slogan tag SAMO stands for Same old Shit & according to a later Basquiat interview, was “first created to be a logo like Pepsi.”
SAMO became an icon in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where the cultural influences of rap punk and street art coalesced, heavily influencing the aesthetic of the decades to come.
Starting in 1978 while both were still in high school, the SAMO writings would appear large on walls as words, phrases, bombastic prose and untold truths,. It usually appeared in black writing along with a copyright symbol, spray painted or scribbled on walls as:
MAKE SOUP. BUILD A FORT, SET THAT ON FIRE. - SAMO©
SAMO© SAVES IDIOTS AND GONZOIDS...
SAMO©...4 MASS MEDIA MINDWASH
SAMO© AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO GOD
SAMO©...4 THE SO-CALLED AVANT-GARDE
Al Diaz says “SAMO was like a refresher course because there's some kind of statement being made. It's not just ego graffiti.”
Art critic Jeffrey Deitch called it "disjointed street poetry" and yet Basquait quickly went onward to capitalize on the attentions generated to quickly becoming a heavily collected & much shown artist in galleries worldwide.
Basquiat combined African, Aztec, Hispanic, and ancient Roman and Greek imagery with his own invented iconography and graphic marks in works that emphasized the physical and the gestural aspects of the artistic process. Repetitions of words, names, scrawls, cartoons, anatomy drawings and voodoo incantations alike, his visual savagery articulated a vivid mind eager to cash in on the buying frenzies at the time. Art as Art-To-Go became the norm as anything created sold & some artists (Haring) even referred to it as "Fast Art "
Even before Basquiat ever showed his work in any galleries, Blondie (Deborah Harry bought the first canvas he ever sold when they met on the music video ( 1981) shoot for her hit song Rapture.
He even befriended Andy Warhol (b.1928- d.1987) & they later collaborated on a series of large paintings together. The wealthy older Warhol took an interest in the younger artist, even renting him a loft/studio from his real estate portfolio at one point. It was the same loft where Basquiat in 1987, age 27, was later found dead from a heroin overdose.
In 2017, Basquiat became the most expensive American artist ever sold at auction when one of his “Untitled 1982” skull paintings sold for a whopping $110 million. This painting was first shown and sold at Basquiat's debut American solo exhibition in the Annina Nosei Gallery in year 1982. It is one of the artworks he painted in her gallery basement space there where he ensconced himself to work (a sometimes controversially viewed arrangement in the art world.)
Annina Nosei will forever be associated with Jean-Michel Basquiat whom she helped launch into the mainstream art world as his first American art dealer, and whom she set up in a spacious studio where he could paint large canvases. Her connection with Basquiat was a career highlight, but only one event in her distinguished and ongoing art career.
The "Untitled" 1982 Skull painting's provenance can be traced from it’s original 1982 studio inception by the artist, to it’s purchase price at the same year's show for a sum of $19,000 ( of which the artist may have received around $9,000 for it ). Not bad for a painting which most likely took no longer than a few hours for him to paint & later in 2017 sold for $110,000,000.
Many of the second floor paintings we saw at Brainwash Art museum revolved around a heady display of Mona Lisa canvas reproductions in gold gilded frames with artful scribbles and artfully applied paint added for effect.
The Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, is considered an archetypal masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance, it has been described as "the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world".
Enter Mr. Brainwash…
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian polymath of the High Renaissance who was active as a painter, draughtsman, engineer, scientist, theorist, sculptor, and architect. Although he is best known for his dramatic and expressive artworks, Leonardo also conducted dozens of carefully thought out experiments and created futuristic inventions that were groundbreaking for the time. His keen eye and quick mind led him to make important scientific discoveries, yet he never published his ideas.
His Treatise on Painting, taken from pages in his notebooks from 1482-1519, was first published in France in 1651. The main aim of the treatise was to argue that painting was a science
In year 1503, Leonardo began work on an oil painting ( Mona Lisa) that was still in his studio when he died in year 1519. It was painted & worked on intermittently over these many years on a piece of 2′ 6″ tall x 1′ 9″ wide Poplar Wood panel. Later X-Rays have revealed his own fingerprints on it.
So we know it was a highly valued treasure by the artist as he carried it with him during studio moves & never parted with it during his lifetime. Some theories, based on his own writings, point to it being a portrait of his own mother, Caterina, whom we know later lived with him under his care.
Hello - Please follow us on the instagram for more exploits: @SassotheCat --