Jean-Michel Basquiat: From Street to Studio.

(December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988)
(Photo Credit: 1986, New York, New York, USA — Jean-Michel Basquiat — Image by © William Coupon/CORBIS)

I don’t think about Art when I’m working. I try to think about Life.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

He was born in Brooklyn, NY to a Haitian-American father and an Afro-Puerto Rican mother. He was a gifted child learning to read and write by age four and became a gifted artist due to his mother’s love of art, which she instilled in him.

When he was 8 yrs. old, he was hit by a car and suffered injuries. Upon recovering, his mother gave him a Gray’s Anatomy book to occupy his time. This moment would change his life forever and his artistic outlook.

Basquiat first gained notoriety as a teenage graffiti poet/artist using his famous text phrase on buildings “SAMO.”

Jean-Michel Basquiat spray painting one of his SAMO quotes in Lower Manhattan.

At the age of twenty, he had turned from spraying graffiti on the walls of buildings in Lower Manhattan to selling paintings in SoHo galleries.

Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

He rapidly became one of the greatest artists of his generation sparking the Neo-Expressionist and Primitivist Art movement in the late 1970s and 1980s. He was known as The Radiant Child,” a name given to him by art critic Rene’ Ricard in his first major article on Basquiat in Artforum Magazine in 1981.

After this article was published, Basquiat skyrocketed up the ranks of the art world and garnered him recognition for his raw talent and concrete poetry.

He used social commentary in his paintings as a “springboard to deeper truths about the individual.”

 His art focused on “suggestive dichotomies,” such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation and inner versus outer experience.

For example, in his large double-panel painting, “In Italian,” he uses his expressive and emotional depth through this imagery of empowerment with his repeated use of crowns as a dual motif for majestic and kingly qualities he attributed to himself.

In Italian, by Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1983

Basquiat uses the “crown of thorns,” imagery only to cross out the final word in the phrase to convey the crown as a parallel symbol of fallibility in religious iconography.

Jean-Michel Basquiat painting his In Italian, a portrait of Stephen Torton, in New York, 1983. Photo:© Stephen Torton/ADAGP, Paris.

I loved the quote from Julian Schnabel‘s 1996 biopic film Basquiat, about Basquiat’s sheer Genius, “Your Audience is not even born yet.” Basquiat was ahead of his time and was gone too soon at the age of 27 of a drug overdose.

In 1992, the Whitney Museum of American Art held a retrospective of Basquiat’s art and in 2005, the Brooklyn Museum of Art held an exhibit of his past works. Most recently, the Gagosian Gallery in New York held an exhibition of Basquiat’s work from February 7-April 6, 2013. His work is still in high demand.

Considered to be his artistic generation’s lightning rod, bridging cultures together.

To me he was beautiful, brilliant, original, unique, and lived his art, being caught between two worlds: the conscious and unconscious mind of society. He lived his truth in his work and showed us the brokenness of our world through his use of imagery, humor and text in his paintings. However, he was wise beyond his mere 27 years on this earth.

All I can say of Basquiat is one word too “FRAGILE” for this world.

Although his art career was brief, Jean-Michel Basquiat has been credited with bringing the African-American and Latino experience into the elite art world.

Jean-Michel Basquiat in his studio, 1985. Cover of The New York Times Magazine Photograph © Lizzie Himmel

We Love You Radiant Child. You have inspired me to return to drawing and painting. Your work still survives and influences today! 🙂

Genius Child

This is a song for the genius child.
Sing it softly, for the song is wild.
Sing it softly as ever you can –
Lest the song get out of hand.

Nobody loves a genius child.

Can you love an eagle,
Tame or wild?
Can you love an eagle,
Wild or tame?
Can you love a monster
Of frightening name?

Nobody loves a genius child.

Kill him – and let his soul run wild.
-Langston Hughes


5 thoughts on “Jean-Michel Basquiat: From Street to Studio.

  1. Pingback: Jean Michel Basquiat Of Glenn O’Brien—-TV PARTY—- ***messymandella***SAMO | messymandella

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