In “Fame, Graffiti and Anonymous Rage: the Getting Up of Jean-Michel Basquiat,” writer Justin Gershwin traces the life and work of Jean-Michel Basquiat and proposes that his meteoric rise was propelled by a construct Gershwin calls “anonymous rage.” Anonymous rage is when people rebel against their own namelessness, their own anonymity, by asserting themselves. It has manifested itself throughout history as graffiti, street music (like the first black jazz musicians), boxers (like Joe Louis—“negroes” who are only important in the ring), and so on.
Troubled by the widening gap between rich and poor and its implications, artist Julia Kim Smith collected nearly 30 signs by the homeless and created a shelter-like installation as an expression of anonymous rage. Anonymous Rage, the installation, can be viewed in several ways. The signs are real expressions of individual need and desperation created by real people, the anonymous homeless, in bad times. The signs are symbols of a society in economic decline that cannot take care of its own. And, Smith poses, the signs are art, as valid as any other form, expressing an anonymous rage that cuts to the core and evokes raw emotions that range from compassion, fear, suspicion, and anger. The expressions of need are short, attention-grabbing, and slogan-like, and, like advertising, verge on iconographic. The signs have a common style that borrows from advertising and billboards: block-like, all-capital letters in black marker on scraps of cardboard or found signs and posters. The medium is still the message. Through their signs, the homeless rebel against their own anonymity and invoke our vulnerability and mortality as individuals and as a society.
- Year Created: 2011
- Submitted to ArtBase: Wednesday May 18th, 2011
- Original Url: http://www.juliakimsmith.com/anonymous.html
- Julia Kim Smith, artist
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