The Radiant Child

Artforum, December 1981

New York City, December 1st, 1981


The Artforum December 1981 issue featured a landmark essay about the East Village gallery scene of the early 1980s by Rene Ricard. Asking the question “What is it that makes something look like art?”, the essay is nowadays considered a seminal text in contemporary art criticism. Credited with launching the public career of Jean-Michel Basquiat and shining spotlight on Keith Haring and Judy Rifka, some of the most memorable quotes from this iconic piece of art journalism can be found below:

“What is it that makes something look like art? I can’t answer that. I asked someone once why he liked Jean-Michel’s work and why it was being singled out for acclaim, and he said, ‘Because it looks like art.’ But then again art doesn’t always look like art at first. The way the space shuttle that lifts off doesn’t much resemble the space shuttle as it lands.”
"A good example of this principle is the case of Judy Rifka's work at the debut of the '70s. Her single shapes on plywood are among the most important paintings of the decade. Every painter who saw them at the time recognized their influence."
"Judy Rifka and Jean-Michel Basquiat have both evolved a vocabulary, and so in his way has Keith Haring."
"We are that little baby, the radiant child, and our name, what we are to become, is outside us and we must become ‘Judy Rifka‘ or ‘Jean-Michel‘ the way I became ‘Rene Ricard.‘"
" If Cy Twombly and Jean Dubuffet had a baby and gave it up for adoption, it would be Jean-Michel. The elegance of Twombly is there but from the same source (graffiti) and so is the brut of the young Dubuffet."
The full article can be found here.



Katherina Zeifang

+49 171 1778796

December 1, 1981