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making faces :: bestquiat

i understand that there has been some controversy over urban decay's collaboration with the estate of artist jean-michel basquiat. and i sympathise with those; the space for art to flourish before it gets co-opted by the mainstream and turned into product grows ever smaller, and, while it was basquiat's estate that apparently approach urban decay about the project, it's always uncomfortable when you're mixing mass-produced commercial products with an artist's work. [doubly so in this case, since the artist is deceased and has no say in the matter.] and there is always the question of how much these high-profile commercial exercises do to enhance the profile of the artist, as opposed to cheapening their name through the association. i'm reminded of oprah winfrey's push to popularise toni morrison, as noble as it was, to an audience of people who were unaccustomed to reading that sort of literature. [if you're going to try to scale the mountain of "serious" literature, morrison is a steep climb for your first outing.] i'm also reminded that author jonathan franzen declined to have a sticker indicating that his book the corrections was recommended by winfrey. i get the unease with which artists and art fans view these popular culture incursions.

that said, basquiat did not come out of the traditional new york art scene, and he was associated more with the punk movement of new york. punk is not "art". it is anti-art, which is still a type of art, but it never stood in self-conscious opposition to commercialism [those bands were all trying to sell records!], so much as it tried to create a commercial space for people working outside the mainstream. basquiat started his career doing illegal murals on buildings, decrying the "same old shit" of religion and politics. his fame was built through his associations with underground music culture and was championed by the ever-trendy village voice. the fringes of the art world came calling because of his connections with bands, clubs and gritty urban life. he also collaborated with andy warhol, whose own position on the commercialisation of art was complex. [and, interestingly, his estate also collaborated with a cosmetic company, nars, to produce a collection.]

but as much as those issues were rattling around in my mind when i heard news that urban decay was doing a conceptual collection based on his work, the main thing thought i had was best. idea. ever. after all, urban decay themselves started out as a brand that channeled the post-punk underground, eschewing pinks for browns with blue or green sheens, corpse-y purples and names like "roach", "bruise" and "mildew". cosmetics are not art, but in this case, the two sources come from a similar place.

the collection has been out for a while. items sold out quickly, then got replenished, then sold out again, and are now on sale both from urban decay and sephora. all are limited and, at the prices they are now, they will clear out quickly.

this is the one time in my life that i gave serious thought to rolling up my spare change to see if i could afford the ultra-limited "vault"- a box containing the entire collection. better sense did prevail, however, and i limited myself to a couple of items that i felt were unique to my collection: the "tenant" eyeshadow palette and the 24/7 eyeliner in "vivid".

the palette is the more colourful and cool-toned of the two available, but it's definitely the one that suits my tastes and complexion more. it's a mix of colours that i find exciting to look at, and one that, for me, nicely channels the neon and plastic vibe of the early eighties. [the grubby reality of life for new york's poor at the time is better expressed in the mix of shades in the other palette, "gold griot."] the mix of colours is a little tricky to work on its own, if you're going for an everyday kind of look, but amazing if you want to try something wild.

the eight colours included are:

l to r :: studio, 1960, neo, les

studio :: it is, as described, a pale pink matte, and one of the only understated shades on offer. i like the fact that you can see that it's pink, not just white, when applied, but it sheers out too easily. it works best over a sticky base, so it stays put and doesn't fade so much.

1960 :: named for the year basquiat was born, this hot pink looked soooo promising, but i found it impossible to build up to the colour you see in the pan. applied on its own, or over a regular primer, it looked a little muted and dingy. it worked better over nyx "milk" shadow/ pencil, although it still wasn't as bright as i'd hoped.

neo :: when i swatched this deep red-purple, i was really worried, but that ended when i applied it. contrary to its patchy first impression, it is remarkably intense on the eye, blends well and looks like the colour it appears to be in the pan. purples, especially matte ones [which this basically is, although urban decay claims there's shimmer], are often disappointing, so i give this one a big thumb's up.

les :: a basic soft matte black that's really only useful for deepening the other shades, because it doesn't perform well on its own. it's somewhat buildable, but it fades when used by itself. like mac "carbon", its weaknesses are a strength when it comes to adding depth to other colours: a black that was more intense would overwhelm anything else, whereas this one is happy to take a back seat. it's definitely the easiest shade in the palette to duplicate.

l to r :: graffiti, exu, boom, untitled

graffiti :: this is a luscious deep forest green that goes well with other shades in the palette, but would also work with about a hundred other looks that i can think of. if you pick the sun on a forest, "graffiti" would be the colour of the evergreens boughs in the shadows, rather than those in the light.

exu :: i love the colour chartreuse and i've seen very few examples of the colour that are done this well. it's luminous, almost to the point where i expected it to glow in the dark and, while it is frosted, it concealed rather than emphasised the flawed skin on my eyelids. this is the sort of colour that takes some confidence to wear, but is so worth the effort that it takes.

boom :: strangely, this one puts me in mind of "doom" from the kat von d pastel goth palette, both because of the name and the colour, but this one is a bit deeper and more intense. and that's saying something, because "doom" is an excellent shade. this one has just a bit more teal in it, compared to the pure cyan of "doom" or mac's "electric eel". the formula was really, really nice on this one.

untitled :: wow. talk about saving the best for last. [i wonder, would people from countries that use right-to-left scripts actually consider this the first shade in the palette? the western preference for approaching everything from left to right has to stem from our writing structure. anyway, i digress.] this is described as a "rich deep blue matte" and sure, that's what it is, but there's an indigo/ violet undertone to it that doesn't get credit. there are lots of deep blues around, but this one is like nothing i've ever seen. of course, a big reason for that is that i've simply never seen a matte shadow that performs this well. it's as opaque and intense as a cream, and it's dark without ever looking like it's just another black. i was honestly surprised that it didn't stain my eyelids, but i wear primer all the time, because hooded eyes. without it, i suspect there might have been a problem. breathtaking.

the palette also comes with a double-ended brush that works very well with the included formulas. i appreciate the fact that urban decay usually includes brushes with their palettes and i always end up using them for all sorts of applications.

ooh... ahh...

and, of course, no description of this would be complete without mention of the basquiat art that adorns it. there's a hook provided in case you want to hang it on the wall, which is an interesting idea, albeit it one that seems a bit strange given that the "hook" looks a lot like the things you see on boxes hanging on a rack display at a dollar store. nonetheless, the packaging itself is exceptionally well-done and shows the attention to detail that the collection so richly deserves.

"vivid" is one of three colourful liners released with the collection. i've made an effort this year to work more with coloured liners, since it's something i've never done, so it obviously made sense to grab the loudest and riskiest of the three available shades. by "riskiest", i'm referring to a bright blue against my own colouring; there is nothing risky about the urban decay 24/7 eyeliner formula.

vivid on right... guess who forgot to swatch it?
"vivid" lives up to my expectations of the product: it applies well and lasts well. it takes a couple of passes to build up to full opacity and it's a little lighter on me than it first appears, but it's a nice option for sneaking in a bit of edge into an otherwise conservative look. alternately, it's a great option to pile on to an already outrageous look. that's your business.

here are a few ways that i've tried out these items... but just before i get started on those, i need to say a few words about urban decay's "velvetizer" powder. actually, i just need to say one word: miraculous. whether used as a mixer with foundation or as a finishing powder, this stuff is like having a photoshop filter on you all the time. pores: hidden. finish: as velvety as the name would imply. texture: as fine as a powder can get without being reduced to atoms. weight: what weight? as i've mentioned, i have combination skin that tends to shine no matter what i do, and this extends the period where i'm not glossy by a healthy amount. also, if i have to touch up at some point, i just dust a little more, rather than trying to dab foundation or concealer in strategic locations. i'm flat-out addicted.

look #1 :: exu over the lid, boom on the outer lid, untitled in the outer corners. combined with mac dazzlelight along the brow, mac hipness blush and lipstick queen sunny rouge sinner.

look #2 :: untitled all over lid, less on the outer and inner corners. combined with cargo metro in the upper crease, inglot 351 along the brows, pixi endless silky eye pen in black blue. charlotte tilbury filmstar bronze and glow, armani gloss in dewy.

look #3 :: boom over the entire lid, exu patted on the centre of the lid, graffiti applied lightly in the crease. combined with rouge bunny rouge papyrus canary above crease and unforgettable oriole under the brow, guerlain chic pink blush and jolie teint 00 clair, guerlain ballade rouge automatique lipstick. forgive the almost-duck-face in the first photo.

look #4 :: studio on middle of lid, 1960 on outer lid, neo and les in outer corner. combined with tarte crystal (inner lid), mac dazzlelight on brow. nars outlaw blush and hourglass girl stylo in liberator.

look #5 :: vivid on the eyes, clearly. combined with anastasia legend on lid, mac patina in crease, rouge bunny rouge unforgettable oriole on brow, pixi endless silky eye pen in black noir. not sure about the blush, but highlighter is becca light chaser in opal flashes jade. hourglass girl lip stylo in inventor.

my impression overall is extremely positive, which is odd since the palette had a few disappointing shades. it's just that the ones that i love are so good that it makes the disappointment feel less important. in fact, there's still a significant part of me that wants to go back and buy all the remaining items, just because i love the way that the collection was executed. the nars- warhol collaboration was heartbreaking, because it should have been the fantasy of every makeup and art fan made real. instead, it was all appearance, with low-quality products. urban decay have, thankfully, taken another path. these products are meant to be used, not admired. they're easy enough to work with that anyone can enjoy playing around and seeing what they're able to accomplish, which i like to think is in keeping with the theme.

there's little time to lose, so get your online-shopper fingers over to either sephora or urban decay [in canada, the collection is only available online] and grab what you can, while you can. as i'm writing this, both of the items reviewed here are still available, although a couple are gone. why are you still here? go buy stuff


Kimberly Clark's recent anti-haul says more or less the same thing about Basquiat: given his inclination to commercialize his own work, it's hard to say that he would have disapproved of his art being used on makeup. My biggest issue with the Basquiat collection is that Urban Decay has long glamorized drug addiction with product names like "Junkie" and "Speedball," so I don't feel great about them profiting off someone who died of a heroin overdose. THAT SAID, I also don't judge you or anyone else for buying pieces from this collection. Lots of people boycotted the NARS Guy Bourdin collection because his photos supposedly promoted violence against women; I looked at those images and didn't feel offended. We all get to choose our personal limits.

Also, those blues and greens are GORGEOUS. Especially Boom.

as long as you're here, why not read more?

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