Grillo… The Grillo. It’s a highly particular work within Jean-Michel Basquiat’s repertoire of creation. In fact, the Grillo is a canvas that plays the role of cultural and spiritual bridge between Africa and America, between the origins of painting and its current identity… It’ s a canvas made of contrasts and superpositions, signs and pictograms issued from African traditions, entirely conceived in the sense of cultural continuity and making a statement about African-American identity in the meanwhile. The word Grillo, derived from griot, designates the contemporary storyteller, the bearer of a memory – and this is exactly the role that Basquiat wants to play with his painting. African memory is frequently projected in Basquiat’s work, a work that highlights African culture through paintings that deal with segregation and slavery. The Grillo canvas recalls African oral traditions and the art of griots as the foundation of the emergence of unbridled speech in Haiti, the country from which Jean-Michel Basquiat’s father hails.
In 1984, the artist came out with a work that convokes the figure of Ogun, a voodoo god whose attributes, steel and the blade, are clearly visible in the young painter’s art. Basquiat also decorates “Western” fabrics with his work through more subtle allusions to African-American history. In Grillo, Basquiat accumulates symbols of Western civilization that come from Dreyfuss’ Symbol Sourcebook and superposes them with pictograms from African traditions. Now until January 4, 2016, the work can be appreciated on the walls of the Fondation Louis Vuitton within an exhibit that brings together two poles, “pop” and “music and sound”. Definitely not to be missed!