Urban Decay LE Jean Michel Basquiat Collection. This is Gonna Be Long People.

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In a lot of ways this collection makes so much damn sense it hurts. On the other hand, with the direction that UD has gone in the last decade…this collection then seems to be rather incongruous with the line.

Why does it make sense? Because Urban Decay at it’s inception personified in makeup, the grungy beauty that was the aesthetic of Jean-Michel. He started off as a tagger in lower Manhattan, one half of the duo SAMO, moving up gradually in the art world. I’ll be the first to tell you that beyond photography, I’m not a visual art connoisseur. However, there is something about Basquiat’s art that pulls you in and holds you captive. His canvases are an ode to the duality of his Haitian/Puerto Rican heritage heavily laden with African overtones.

His art spoke to issues of class and his perceptions of the ills of society. The crazy making dichotomy of the poverty into which he was born, and then the wealthy circles he was later catapulted into. It spoke to colonialism, cultural and identity theft. He was through his art, very political and socially aware. He had a pretty rough life, was prone to extended bouts of depression and was plagued by increasingly heavy heroin usage and self isolation. Those things were exacerbated by the death Andy Warhol, to whom he was exceptionally close. He died at the very young age of 27 of a heroin overdose.

Now for the why doesn’t it make sense. Although apparently UD was contacted by the Estate of JMB and asked by them to collaborate, I totally get why they would btw if we’re talking about the UD of old. But the UD of now which is owned by L’Oreal, is anathema to the things he believed in and is emblematic of everything he abhorred. Wealth concentration in a very small pool of elites. Not to mention most of Urban Decay’s current demographic, just will not get the art that inspires this collection in any form. Be it his artistic expression or his socio-political bent.

They won’t understand the colour scheme or why there are two palettes instead of one. They won’t understand the names or where they originate. And I’ll be honest if I hear one person say something to the effect of the compacts are ugly, I’m gonna be hella irritated. If I sound like an art snob, trust me I’m far from it, more often than not I don’t “get” most art, particularly paintings. Hell I failed art history twice, me a science major pulling straight A’s, because I just could not care about it and refused to spend my time at any museum that didn’t have bones in it. But Jean-Michel Basquiat was such an influential artist, and his artwork so compelling and very very important to young Black and Latino artists, that to have it cheapened in any way makes me wanna throw hands.

Enough of the ramblings in any case. The collection hosts three palettes, two shadow palettes at $39 each, and one blush, highlighter and bronzer quad that’s $35.

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There are also three lipsticks ($17) and three 24/7 Glide On Gel Pencils ($20). I only picked up the palettes, the other items in the collection really had no initial value to me as let’s be real I was all about the packaging. But since I got these in an Ulta store I was able to swatch and takes pictures of the other items. Speaking of packaging, all of the palettes are housed in cardboard reprinted with Basquiat’s artwork and held closed with magnets. On the back of each is a cut-out so that you can hang the boxes on the wall as art once you’re done with it, or before if you’re only collecting without the purpose of using.

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The shadows are divided into two palettes of eight colours each and although I feel like they could have made one large palette, I do understand that they did it so that they could use more than one piece of his artwork and have the shadows reflect it. Tenant, the more vibrantly coloured palette matches the aesthetic of the colours inside, which are mostly matte, bright and very pigmented. Both eye shadow palettes also come with a double ended brush that has the artist’s name on it as well as Basquiat’s signature crown symbol on the magnetic flap closure.

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The is a very bold palette with all new colours, this isn’t an everyday type of palette by any stretch of the imagination and is definitely not for everyone. You’ll need to love bright colours and not be afraid to wear them. Although I generally have a pretty difficult time with UD mattes, these were soft, buttery and extremely pigmented. Even with the brightness of the colours, this could function reasonably well as a stand alone palette. There is only one very light shade that can be used as a brow bone shade, and no obvious transition shade, but the inclusion of a black means that there is a decent crease and darkening shade at the very least. Swatches and colour descriptions below.

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Studio (pale pink matte)
1960 (bright pink matte)
Neo (rich aubergine w/micro-shimmer)
Les (charcoal-black matte-satin)
Graffiti (deep metallic green)
Exu (bright green shimmer)
Boom (bright teal matte)
Untitled (rich deep blue matte)-this one stains

They apply reasonably well, and most blend with no muddiness. For the look below I’m wearing Exu all over the inner lid with Graffiti on the outer. I used LES to darken the outer V into my crease and blended upwards to the brow bone. Since this palette doesn’t have a good brow bone highlight as far as I’m concerned, I had to use Mac Patina as a brow highlight and inner corner colour. I smudged Boom along my bottom lash line. I said reasonably well because I had trouble building Graffiti at first. I I tried to swipe, then pack it on the lid with a brush and couldn’t get good enough colour built up. I finally gave up on brushes and used my finger to pop it right on the lid, and I finally achieved the payoff I was after.

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Gold Griot is arguably a neutral palette and because of that will be more wearable for more people. The artwork on the palette reflects the starkness of the shades housed inside. Even though neutral they still manage to be dynamic with the satins in both palettes taking on an almost foiled look that isn’t apparent in pictures. The only thing that I really disliked about this palette is the way that it opens. It opens lengthwise and I find that to be a bit awkward and for me, hard to work with.

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The shades are once again mostly matte. There is one dud in the palette though and I think that that might be across all the collection because even the well swatched palette in Ulta behaved the same way. The colours look like one thing in the palette but when swatched or applied they take on a dimension that wasn’t immediately apparent. My two favourite colours in this one are Not For Sale a matte orange brown and BK a blue grey satin Swatches and colour descriptions below.

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Enigma (neutral pale nude matte)
Levitation (warm pale nude matte) – (this shade doesn’t swatch or apply well)
Not For Sale (medium sienna matte)
Suckerpunch (warm brown shimmer)
Influence (brown satin w/gold shimmer)
BK (grey matte-satin)
Pseudonym (deep navy matte)-this one stains
Crown (very metallic gold)

I found the shadows in this palette to be a little bit drier than Tenant, but that didn’t stop them from blending out well. Below I’m wearing BK on the inner part of my lid, with Pseudonym blended into the crease and up towards the brow bone, and Influence in the middle of the lid. This palette does have some transition and brow bone shades, and I used Levitation as a transition shade and to blend out the harsh edges of Pseudonym, with Enigma as a brow bone highlight. I’m not sure that I’ll be keeping this palette because although the colours are beautiful, I hardly need another neutral palette and even though the colours are beautiful, I can dupe them all. If I do keep it, it’ll be just because it’s a collectors item.

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The last palette in the collection is the Gallery Blush palette which contains two Afterglow formula blushes, a bronzer and a highlighter. I have to say that beyond the artwork of the palette I’m pretty disappointed all around by it. The shades in this palette are solidly boring. I mean they have all of Basquiat’s colour impressions and they chose two shades of basic pink as blushes, when you could have gone for a bright orange or if not that bold, then a colour that matches Epigram or Anatomy in an orange sienna. Don’t just give us two damn pink blushes in shades every single woman regardless of skin tone already has in her arsenal. A pink blush is easy and uncomplicated. Add to that this is supposed to be a palette based on the life works of an artist of colour, but the shades in this are unsuitable for darker skinned women and I’m doubly insulted.

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Although in the pan the colours look as if the should work for a darker tone, upon swatching they prove to be very light and lack the level of pigmentation needed to work well on a dark skin. The bronzer is really a joke, because this is a finishing powder for me. I don’t know what’s so hard in understanding that a darker bronzer can be sheered out, but a light one can’t be built up? Both blushes and the bronzer are matte, the highlighter is a light gold and is hyper shiny and maybe a little bit gritty, but it blends out gorgeously and looks stunning. Swatches and colour descriptions below.

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X-Rated (medium pink)
Now’s The Time (gold-champagne shimmer)
Jawbone (medium bronze)
NOHO (radiant berry)

Below I’m wearing NoHo blush and Now’s The Time highlighter, and while both are gorgeous, I’ll likely return this palette because I’m pissed and the price doesn’t justify being able to use only two of the four shades. Both being shades that I already own in spades and multiple formulations. I did manage to mix Jawbone, the bronzer, with X-Rated (which is very light pink for me, not medium) to create an odd orange pink shade that’s somewhat wearable, but I’m really not about that mixing life so…

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I did swatch the pencil and lipsticks in store so I got those for ya. I didn’t wind up getting any of the lipsticks because they’re cream and I’m not all that interested, but looking at the swatches of them I may have to go back and pick up Abstract and/or Epigram. I was interested in getting the pencil in Post-Punk but based on these swatches is seems to be the one with the worst staying power. When I finally wiped off the swatches, it was the only one that wiped clean off and I think is has to do with this colour having reflective pearls. The other two required soap and water to get them off. Swatches below in direct and indirect sunlight.

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Abstract – Nude Taupe

Exhibition – Medium Pink-Purple

Epigram – Neutral Sienna

Vivid – Bright Matte Teal

Anatomy – Matte Sienna

Post-Punk – Neon Green w/Pearl

 

Final Thoughts.

I haven’t been the hugest fan of UD in the last decade or so, and in one fell swoop I find my collection has increased almost eighty percent. With the exception of the blush palette I find myself over the moon about this collection. This is the UD that I used to know and love. The one that was edgy, not pretty. The one with the colours that pushed boundaries and didn’t care who didn’t like it. If they continue to crank out collections like these I may find myself being a fan again.

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