Irony of a Negro Policeman

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Jean-Michel Basquiat, Irony of a Negro Policeman, 1913
By SAI GONDI

It's upsetting that this work possesses so much relevance in our current society. An issue circulating around all platforms of media and news recently has been racially-motivated police brutality. The issue has existed in the United States for decades, and in 1981 Jean-Michel Basquiat gave the world his own insight on the prejudice in one of his most powerful works, Irony of a Negro Policeman. Racism subsists all across the U.S., proving the presence of racist mindsets in society seems inevitable. For centuries African Americans faced prejudices, including segregation and Jim Crow Laws. However, in the latter end of the 20th century and into the 21st century police brutality began gaining greater press in media. In Irony of a Negro Policeman, Basquiat is exposing the irony behind blacks in the police force. He disagrees with idea of those who dealing with discrimination joining the ranks of those who are guilty. 

The work incorporates Basquiat's signature, abstract styles. His background with graffiti heavily influences his works. The strange, violent nature of the work helps set it apart from various modern and neo-expressionist artists from his time. The scribbles dancing around the canvas seem unnecessary, but help fill the void space. Irony of a Negro Policeman situates itself among Basquiat's most notable works and social critiques. The issue of police brutality against minorities floods our media too often, and though this work was completed in 1981, its empowering message resonates in our society today. 

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