Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) was a black American neo-expressionist artist. A contemporary of Andy Warhol and a celebrity in his own right, Basquiat is important primarily because of his art but also because he is one of the few black painters to have succeeded in the contemporary art scene. Basquiat died of an overdose on August 12, 1988.
Basquiat was born in Brooklyn, New York to Matilde and Gerard Basquiat. His mother was Puerto Rican and his father is an accountant of Haitian origin. Because of his parents' nationalities, Basquiat was fluent in French, Spanish, and English before the age of eleven. He read in theselanguages, including Symbolist poetry, mythology, and history. At an early age, Basquiat displayed an aptitude for art and was encouraged by his mother to draw, paint, and to participate in other art-related activities. In late 1977, while a student at City-As-School high school in Brooklyn, Basquiat and his friend Al Diaz started spray-painting graffiti art on buildings in lower Manhattan, adding the signature of "SAMO". The graphics were messages such as "Plush safe he think.. SAMO" and "SAMO as an escape clause".
I have been a fan of Basquiat's ever since a girlfriend, then art history student, first introduced me to his works; I think she showed me a book on sale in New York, in fact.
I was attracted to the colours and vibrancy of his work, the urgency, the graffiti origins, semiotic density and (always) the figures in his paintings: like voodoo or totemic images. Having noticed a recent anouncement of a large exhibition of the artist's work in Paris I thought it might be a fun topic for a hub and a great excuse to look at some of his art.
More about Basquiat
- There is a new documentary by Tamra Davis called Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child which is showing now.
- You can buy a pair of reebok basquiats!
- Also check out the film Basquiat directed by Julian Schnabel released in 1996 which manages to be a work of art in itself and does a great rendering of the artist and his milieu.
- Read the essay The Radiant Child by Rene Ricard, critic and friend of the artist in which he talks about the genesis of Basquiat's art in graffiti.
Basquiat Exhibition in Paris
The museum publicity calls it “an encounter with the work of the pioneer of the underground scene, that is simultaneously original, violent and energetic.” Basquiat has shown work in several French galleries while he was alive, and posthumously. The Musée d'Art moderne show is the first major retrospective of his work in the French capital.