Art Historian's Analysis:
"Leaving portions of the cardboard substrate visible to the viewer, the surface of Catalogue Number 21 is partially covered by a layer of black acrylic paint. This provides a high contrast ground for the markings in white paint stick —a grid pattern towards the center; lettering along the top and right side; a collection of arrows along the bottom edge; and at the center a bold, three-pointed crown. Just along the left side there is a long-stemmed leafy form that stretches vertically along the edge of the black acrylic wash. Rendered in purple crayon, its organic, curving lines provide a contrast to the more angular forms in black-and-white.
Art historian Robert Farris Thompson has read Basquiat’s pervasive crown motif in such works as part of his larger ambitions as an artist full agenda. The crown, he says, means: “I intend to have powers up to and including Thor. I intend to be king. I intend to show you and control you and make it function as art.” Yet, Suzanne Mallouk, a close friend of the artist, contends that the crown came from their favorite cartoon, The Little Rascals. She explained that Basquiat “watched The Little Rascals religiously, and Our Gang, which was the show that aired before. At the end of The Little Rascals, if you notice, there is a crown sketched on the screen, and a title: King World Productions. That’s where the crown came from.” However, the meaning of the crown does not end there.
Graffiti artists of the late 1970s and early 1980s frequently used the crown motif to establish a system of power and ranking among their peers. Stephen Powers attributes the introduction of the crown to the writer Cornbread, who stated that: “every king should have one.” Graffiti writers who admired the work of others would express their respect for a piece by painting a simple, often-three-pointed, crown next to the work. Accordingly, certain artists were made “kings” (as in king of the whole subway car or king of the wall).
The concept of kingship or royalty is also significant for its relationship to jazz culture. As a form of advertisement in the 1920s, musicians would often play outside the doors of nightclubs. It became a form of competition between the individual musicians to see who could draw in the most people from the street. The winner would become the “king” of that particular area. It was also common for musicians to adopt aristocratic titles as a dual strategy of self-promotion and of subversion. Jazz musicians often received nicknames from fellow musicians as a display of affection and/or respect. Two of the major stars of jazz’s big band era, the songwriter Edward Kennedy Ellington and the pianist William Basie became a “duke” and a “count, ” respectively. The appropriation of terms usually reserved for Western aristocracy was a bold move in terms of its racial subtext. By taking on the titles of (usually white) European authority, the musicians of this era subverted the established hierarchies of society. Basquiat makes a similar move with his coronation of himself and other notable figures such as Charlie Parker. These acts of re-appropriation emphasized the challenges that both artists posed to the white-dominated art worlds of their time. In Catalogue Number 21 the connections to royalty, kingship, and authority expressed via the crown are underscored even more via the inclusion of the word “CZAR” written several times across the surface.
Conclusion: Given the artist’s known interest in concepts of kingship and royal authority and the positive identification of the handwriting and icons by expert Jim Blanco, it is my professional opinion that Catalogue Number 21 is consistent with the hand of Jean-Michel Basquiat and may be attributed to him."
- Dr Jordana Moore Saggese
Basquiat's Colleague's Analysis:
"The above pictured works of art meet many of the criteria associated with the straightforward and simplistic, rapid-fire style employed by JMP when painting on found objects and discarded scraps of corrugated cardboard. This type and style of painting is one that might be easily identified with the artist's early work while still engaged in writing his urban poetic observations on the streets of downtown NYC. Notable [is] the inclusion of the often-used moniker, the crown. This iconography was generally enlisted to inform the viewer of who, in the narrative, is the hero. In this grouping of works, the crown appears to be a spontaneous reflection of the artist's own self. It is plausible that the hero in the painting entitled One More King - Czar, is Al Diaz, the one-time coconspirator and collaborator in the duo known as SAMO.
It is likely that the original intended use of the cardboard was as a surface for the artist to wipe clean his brush while working on another, larger painting. Never one to miss an opportunity to clear his thoughts, these quick, continuous-line artworks were as much an exorcism of ideas as the intended creation of something new. Unsurprisingly, as with the majority of works produced by Basquiat, the omnipresent layering effect is in full force in a stream of consciousness application whoe symbolism and connotation is really only known to the artist himself. The application of the paint on these three works of art is typical and representative of the artist's known approach to the substrate. Basquiat works are known for their often-solid background color upon which the layering begins". - Scott Ferguson
"Similarities to known works by Jean-Michel Basquiat-- "JEAN", "ALBERTA", "ONE", "MORE", "KING", "CZAR", lines through words (cr-vol.I 104, 128; comp 276), repetitive letters "A" (cr-vol.I 22, 29, 58), climbing vine (cr-vol.I 122, 152), the three point crown (cr-vol.I 26, 27, 57, 62, 199, 245, 320 (cr-vol.I 62 shows a filled in crown with heavy borders)), arrows with four fletchings (cr-vol.I 96, 127, 165), grid (cr-vol.I 81, 142), portions of substrate exposed."
"Numerous distinctive similarities were observed in the hand printings, monograms, symbols, markings, sketches and doodles observed in this Catalogue item #21 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 #21 painting. That is to say, Jean-Michel Basquiat authored the Catalogue item #21 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