Gittoes’ practice as an artist has emerged into a new maturity with this body of work. The strategies include drawing, photography, painting and video as well as the retrieval of physical objects scrounged from the debris. They are all held together by the stories and anecdotes that demonstrate the nature of human attachment and meaning. He demonstrates the manner in which he works as an “eyewitness” artist through this collection of artistic gestures. Nosingle medium seems adequate for the surplus of ideas he is playing with. He implies that there is a larger canvas he is juggling with – somewhere out in the field - in front of all these raw memories.
His own reasoning for developing this role as an artist is about compassion. It is a strange word in the vocabulary of professional arts practice that is more often focused on that of self-referential irony. He comments:
If you can create in a war zone, then you are doing that in the face of incredible destruction … it is an important gesture. I have discovered from the conflicts I have covered that violence only leads to more violence. Human beings are creative. All these international situations need love, consideration and creativity… I want to spend the rest of mycareer doing creative work in the face of violent forces.
Gittoes is offering some sense of discernment in the midst of the blinding spectacle of images that regularly assault our sense of order and moral “decency”. At both the personal and the social level he is allowing us to refine a more compassionate eye and to thereby question the nature of image making, propaganda and illusion. This discernment is something of a response to the fatigue of seeing that marks our current situation where we are deluged by the mirrors of contemporary existence. There is too much to see – a condition that creates a visual malaise that in turn renders us blind.
In contrast to the over-rehearsed and immobilising grasp of the “spectacle” that obsessively feeds our need to be entertained, Gittoes offers the view of a compassionate eye that irritates and prompts us to see, from the ground up – to imagine the conditions of a fertile ground - with no zeroes.
While some of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s early work shared similarities with SAMO©, and some were even signed SAMO© (sometimes then crossed out as in CadillacMoon), his work changed quite a bit. He retained some qualities of his “graffiti style” but developed a more heavy-handed and ‘painterly’ style. The young emerging artist continued to play with popular culture and iconography (in that “pop” sense), and as his career as a painter developed he began to investigate collage and montage styles, imagery from heritage and tradition as well as themes and subjects that addressed his heritage and a new tradition.
During this development from street artist to gallery artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat experienced a kind of popularity and fame that was peculiar to such young artists in the visual arts. To be sure, it certainly wasn’t unwarranted in that the precocious young artist had quite deliberately targeted it. He met the ‘on the scene’ New Yorker, Glenn O’Brien, who became a pivotal figure for Jean-Michel Basquiat in the downtown scene. The artist appeared on his show, TV Party, in 1979 and would repeatedly make appearances over the next few years. He also starred in Glenn O’Brien’s independent film New York Beat, later re-titled, Downtown 81(2001), as an…