Monday, August 10, 2015

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Boy and dog in a Johnnypump
oil on canvas
240 x 420.4 cm
The Stephanie and Peter Brant Foundation, Greenwich, CN, USA

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) was a Neo-Expressionist American-Haitian painter, known for his raw gestural style of painting with graffiti-like images and scrawled text. He was raised in a middle-class home in Brooklyn. His mother was an American of Puerto Rican descent.

A self-taught artist, he began drawing at an early age on sheets of paper his father, an accountant, brought home from the office. As he delved deeper into his creative side, his mother strongly encouraged to pursue artistic talents. She encouraged his interest in art, taking him to New York City’s great art museums. His parents eventually separated, and he and his sisters lived with their father in Puerto Rico from 1974 to 1976. His mother was diagnosed as mentally ill and eventually was institutionalized.

In 1977, he quit high school. To make ends meet, he sold sweatshirts and postcards featuring his artwork on the streets of his native New York. In 1980 in a group show, his work and style received critical acclaim for the fusion of words, symbols, stick figures, and animals. Soon, his paintings came to be adored by an art loving public. His rise coincided with the emergence of a new art movement, Neo-Expressionism. In the mid 1980s, he collaborated with Andy Warhol.

As his popularity soared, so did his personal problems. By the mid-1980s, friends became increasingly concerned by his excessive drug use. He became paranoid and isolated himself from the world around him. He died of a drug (heroin) overdose in New York City. He was 27 years old. Although his art career was brief, he has been credited with bringing the African-American and Latino experience in the elite art world.