Art Historian's Analysis:
"The overworked surface of Catalogue Number 25 is consistent with the known practices of Jean-Michel Basquiat, who frequently painted over entire sections of a canvas, crossed out letters of written words, and built up several layers of imagery using paint as well as paper collage. Here we see several layers of thick overpainting in vibrant colors with a distorted head at the center of the composition; a halo directly above radiates light downward via red and yellow lines.
Aside from the mode of construction, several formal details of this composition seem to align with known practices and works of Jean-Michel Basquiat. For example, along the top of the composition we see several words with letters crossed out. Rendered illegible and abstracted from their syntax, the letters operate almost as formal elements rather than as language.
Such practices were common to Basquiat, who frequently crossed out letters or even entire words and images on the surface of his works. I have argued elsewhere that this conversion of language or lettering to formal elements aligns with Basquiat’s interests in the dividing line between conceptual art practices that preceded him and the expressionist tendencies that surrounded him. That is, he transforms language —the raw materials of conceptual art —into an expressive element.
Along the left side of the composition we also see a ladder shape in red, which appears in several known paintings and drawings as well. One example of this shape, for the sake of comparison, is drawn on the right of the large canvas Self-Portrait from 1982 (see below).
The head that we see in Catalogue Number 25 is uniquely shaped with a jaw line that moves diagonally from the right ear to the point of the chin in a slightly obtuse angle. Through the open mouth we see an overabundance of clenched teeth (i.e., a number of teeth in excess of those found in a human mouth), neatly drawn in two, gridded rows. A direct analogue of this head shape is difficult to find in the known paintings and drawings of Jean-Michel Basquiat, but this head does hold several features in common with known renderings. For example, the combination of an oval shaped eye and a circular eye on a single face, the radical simplification of the nose as an inverted triangle with two circles drawn in for nostrils, and the detailed outlining of individual teeth inside the mouth, are all features we see in Basquiat’s works.
The halo that hovers above the figure’s head is reminiscent of the artist's known works, yet deviates slightly from preferred forms. More specifically, the halos that appear in Basquiat’s paintings and drawings as detached forms that hover above the figure typically consist of an oval that is intersected by short vertical lines all the way around its circumference, almost like a crown of thorns. We can see examples of this style in Self-Portrait, Slave Auction, Offensive Orange, and Price of Gasoline in the Third World —all from 1982.
The halo that we see in Catalogue Number 25, however, is only intersected by lines that extend downward toward the face and that are much longer (i.e., they overlap with the skull) than those typically seen. One example of a halo with lines only on the lower half of the oval is in Basquiat’s Untitled (Baptism), also from 1982. Here we see that the upper portion of the halo has been covered by a thick line of black paint, obscuring it from view. It is difficult to know whether the upper half of the halo in Baptism indeed has the same short intersecting lines that we see on the portions that remain in view, but it is an example of deviation from the more commonly known style of halos that supports a claim for attribution of Catalogue Number 25 to Basquiat. We might also assume that the restricted space of the pre-sized cardboard material used predicated a truncation of the upper portion of the halo, as in Icon 6 (see below).
Conclusion: Despite variations with known works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, including the shape of the jawline and the rendering of the halo above the head, there are many common features in Catalogue Number 25 that support an attribution to Jean-Michel Basquiat. Further supported by the positive analysis of the signature “JEAN” in the lower right corner by handwriting expert Jim Blanco, it is my professional opinion that this work is consistent with the hand of Jean-Michel Basquiat and may be attributed to him." - Dr Jordana Moore Saggese
Basquiat's Colleague's Analysis:
"In this work, a mixed media on paperboard, many telltale effects found in other known works are unmistakably present. Artists such as Cy Twombly had a profound influence on Basquiat. The use of words on the top one fourth of the drawing appears after some layers of color have already been applied to the board. The over worked multi colored layering effect which dominates the drawing is clearly inspired by another known stimulator of the artist's style, Jean Dubuffet. The ladder, buried under layers of color and the ever-present halo are often-used icons in Basquiat's visual vocabulary. While it may appear that the artist is building as he works, it is likely that the artist was transforming the work continually, using more and more layers to cover unwanted ideas from emerging to the surface of the work. This work is fluid, cohesive and very reminiscent of the early postcards, sold by Basquiat to support humself during the early stages of his career". - Scott Ferguson
Similarities to known works by Jean-Michel Basquiat-- "JEAN", letters in background such as A, D, S, I; concentric circles for eyes (cr-vol.I 69, 84, 88, 89, 146-147; cr-vol.II page 88 frames 4 and 6, page 108 frames 1, 2, and 8, page 138 frame 2, page 144 frame 5, page 176 frames 1 and 4), lenticular eye (cr-vol.I 77, 173), caged mouth on reverse side (cr-vol.I 67, 69, 89, 111, 140), halo with spikes (cr-vol.I 20, 106, 116, 117, 140),tic-tac-toe style of grid in background (cr-vol.I 78-79, 80; cr-vol.II 106 frames 4 and 5, 102 frames 4 and 5).
"Numerous distinctive similarities were observed in the hand printings, monograms, symbols, markings, sketches and doodles observed in this Catalogue item #25 painting when compared to the works by Jean-Michel Basquiat as presented in the Catalogue Raisonne and in The Notebooks. Due to these similarities, Jean-Michel Basquiat is identified as the person who created this Catalogue item #25 painting. That is to say, Jean-Michel Basquiat authored the Catalogue item #25 painting."
*An "identification" is a term of art in Forensic Document Examination opinion rendering and represents the highest degree of confidence expressed by document examiners in handwriting comparisons. That is, the examiner has no reservations whatsoever, and the examiner is certain, based on evidence contained in the questioned materials, that the writer of the known material actually wrote the handwritten works in questions (ASTM - American Society of Testing and Materials - designation E 1658-08 Standard Terminology for Expressing Conclusions of Forensic Document Examiners). - James A. Blanco