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In Grillo, Basquiat challenges the spectators with strategically thought-out processes. Issuing the work with both pure and abstracted figuration, the artist consciously allows his symbolism to be identified partially, leaving the spectator in a state of ‘half-knowing’. By forcing the observers of his work to physically move around the piece, in order to appreciate and gain perspective of its grandeur and stature, the artist develops a visual and structural play on the idea of semiotics—where the signifier and the signified enter a reciprocal relationship, making one reliant on the other, yet completely dependant on the experience of the work itself.

Grillo (Figure With Tray) - Jean-Michel Basquiat - Neo Expressionist Painting

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In Grillo, Basquiat challenges the spectators with strategically thought-out processes. Issuing the work with both pure and abstracted figuration, the artist consciously allows his symbolism to be identified partially, leaving the spectator in a state of ‘half-knowing’. By forcing the observers of his work to physically move around the piece, in order to appreciate and gain perspective of its grandeur and stature, the artist develops a visual and structural play on the idea of semiotics—where the signifier and the signified enter a reciprocal relationship, making one reliant on the other, yet completely dependant on the experience of the work itself.

Jean-Michel Basquiat emerged from the "Punk" scene in New York as a gritty, street-smart graffiti artist who successfully crossed over from his "downtown" origins to the international art gallery circuit. In a few fast-paced years, Basquiat swiftly rose to become one of the most celebrated, and possibly most commercially exploited American "naif" painters of the widely celebrated Neo-Expressionism art movement.   Basquiat's work is one of the few examples of how an early 1980s American Punk, or graffiti-based and counter-cultural practice could become a fully recognized, critically embraced and popularly celebrated artistic phenomenon, indeed not unlike the rise of American Hip Hop during the same era.

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