Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1983 painting, Hollywood Africans, was created during his extended visit to Los Angeles. The artwork features images and texts relating to African American stereotypes in the entertainment industry and deconstructs such racial and reductive typecasting that occurs in Hollywood. Basquiat draws attention to real black stars who have historically been forced to conform to their stereotyping by doing so themselves.
The painting reflects and makes allusions to the racism and discrimination that African Americans faced not only in entertainment but also broader society at the time. It is considered complex lessons on the issues affecting Black people struggled during this time – a representation of resistance against racism across artistic forms. Hollywood Africans has become an iconic cultural symbol with enduring significance as it speaks about a society still forcibly dealing with these same issues today.
His large spray-painted composition uses fragmented pictures of minstrel performers rendered anonymously as well-known figures; though he targeted them more accurately than others, racially charged dialogue reminiscent of old vaudeville gags appear along the contours of their present bodies accompanied by multimedia scribbles useful for manufacturing depth contrasted by flattening silhouettes shadowing over their humorous poses resulting from having actors’ performances heavily managed back then because they were only allowed a few types of roles written just for them instead of multi-dimensional characters in unrestricted artistry like Jean-Michel himself was famous for creating further emphasizing how resticted Blacks were made out to be causing turmoil against multiple generations’ daily endurance scourged within popular media programming systematically perpetuating subjects therein marginalized that resulted from centuries-long history of White oppression experienced even amongst those who acheived success stories in areas they were privileged enough being allowed entry into despite actual equal opportunities remaining elusive.