Thursday, April 3, 2014

Basquiat, Jean-Michel

acrylic, crayon on canvas
183 x 312.5 cm
location unknown
-Fair use-

“I don’t listen to what art critics say. I don’t know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is.” (Jean-Michel Basquiat)

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) was born in Brooklyn, New York, with a Haitian-American father and a Puerto Rican mother. He was a precocious child, and by the age of four he could both read and write. By the time he was eleven, he was fluent in English, French, and Spanish. He dropped out of school at the age of 15 and ran away from home. He slept on Madison Square park benches in New York in early 1970′s and began spray painting buildings in Lower Manhattan, using the pseudonym SAMO, supporting himself by selling T-shirts and homemade postcards, earning him notoriety and a certain amount of fame. He appeared on television in 1979 on the show “TV Party,” and that same year formed a rock band called “Gray,” which performed all throughout New York. During this time, he also appeared in the music video “Rapture” by Blondie.

By 1982, Basquiat was regularly showing his work, and had many high-profile friend ships, including a brief relationship with Madonna, a brief involvement with the musician David Bowie, and a long-time collaboration with the artist Andy Warhol. Andy Warhol does not only become his patron, but also a very close friend. He worked on his paintings in $1,000 dollar Armani suits, in which he would appear in public, spattered in paint. He also appeared on the cover of New York Times Magazine in 1986.

Basquiat's art focused on “suggestive dichotomies,” such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience. He appropriated poetry, drawing and painting, and married text and image, abstraction and figuration, and historical information mixed with contemporary critique. He used social commentary in his paintings as a “springboard to deeper truths about the individual”, as well as attacks on power structures and systems of racism, while his poetics were acutely political and direct in their criticism of colonialism and support for class struggle.

Although Basquiat became the greatest artist of his generation, he was addicted to heroin, and after the death of his friend Andy Warhol in 1987, his addiction became worse. Becoming increasingly isolated,  he died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27 in 1988. Posthumously, many exhibitions of his works have been held, and biopics, books, collections of poems and feature films have all been inspired by his work and life. In his short life, Jean-Michel Basquiat was a pop icon, cultural figure, graffiti artist, musician, and neo-expressionist painter.