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Artists Jean-Michel Basquiat
Jean-Michel Basquiat Photo

Jean-Michel Basquiat

American Painter

Movement: Neo-Expressionism

Born: December 22, 1960 - Brooklyn, New York

Died: August 12, 1988 - New York, New York, USA

Jean-Michel Basquiat Timeline

Quotes

"I am not a black artist, I am an artist.."
Jean-Michel Basquiat
"I had some money, I made the best paintings ever. I was completely reclusive, worked a lot, took a lot of drugs. I was awful to people."
Jean-Michel Basquiat
"The black person is the protagonist in most of my paintings. I realized that I didn’t see many paintings with black people in them."
Jean-Michel Basquiat
"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
"I don't think about art when I'm working. I try to think about life."
Jean-Michel Basquiat
"I like kids' work more than work by real artists any day."
Jean-Michel Basquiat
"The more I paint the more I like everything."
Jean-Michel Basquiat
"I wanted to be a star, not a gallery mascot."
Jean-Michel Basquiat

"Believe it or not, I can actually draw."

Jean-Michel Basquiat Signature

Synopsis

Jean-Michel Basquiat emerged from the "Punk" scene in New York as a gritty, street-smart graffiti artist who successfully crossed over from his "downtown" origins to the international art gallery circuit. In a few fast-paced years, Basquiat swiftly rose to become one of the most celebrated, and possibly most commercially exploited American "naif" painters of the widely celebrated Neo-Expressionism art movement.

Key Ideas

Basquiat's work is one of the few examples of how an early 1980s American Punk, or graffiti-based and counter-cultural practice could become a fully recognized, critically embraced and popularly celebrated artistic phenomenon, indeed not unlike the rise of American Hip Hop during the same era.
Despite his work's "unstudied" appearance, Basquiat very skillfully and purposefully brought together in his art a host of disparate traditions, practices, and styles to create a unique kind of visual collage, one deriving, in part, from his urban origins, and in another a more distant, African-Caribbean heritage.
For some critics, Basquiat's swift rise to fame and equally swift and tragic death by drug overdose epitomizes and personifies the overly commercial, hyped up international art scene of the mid 1980s, a cultural phenomenon that for many observers was symptomatic of the largely artificial bubble economy of the era.
Basquiat's work is an example of how American artists of the 1980s could reintroduce the human figure in their work after the wide success of Minimalism and Conceptualism, thus establishing a dialogue with the more distant tradition of 1950s Abstract Expressionism.

Biography

Jean-Michel Basquiat Photo

Childhood

Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1960. His mother was of Puerto Rican heritage, and his father a Haitian immigrant, the combination of which eventually led to the young Jean-Michel's fluency in French, Spanish, and English (indeed, early readings of French symbolist poetry would come to influence Basquiat's later work). Basquiat displayed a talent for art in early childhood, learning to draw and paint with his mother's encouragement. Together they attended New York City museum exhibitions, and by the age of six, Jean-Michel found himself already enrolled as a Junior Member of the Brooklyn Museum.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat Biography Continues

Important Art by Jean-Michel Basquiat

The below artworks are the most important by Jean-Michel Basquiat - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

SAMO Graffiti (1980)
Artwork Images

SAMO Graffiti (1980)

Artwork description & Analysis: Citing artistic differences, Al Diaz and Basquiat chose to sever their artistic collaboration, SAMO, with this three-word announcement. Carried out episodically at various cites as a piece of ephemeral graffiti art, the phrase surfaced repeatedly on gritty buildings throughout Lower Manhattan. At one time a sign of trespassing and vandalism, graffiti in the hands of Diaz and Basquiat became a tool of artistic "branding"; repeated here and there throughout the billboard-dotted city, "SAMO is Dead" slowly took on the status of a corporate mantra, such as, for instance, Coca Cola's "It's the Real Thing".

Graffiti

Untitled (Skull) (1981)
Artwork Images

Untitled (Skull) (1981)

Artwork description & Analysis: An example of Basquiat's early canvas-based work, Untitled (Skull) features a patchwork skull that seems the pictorial equivalent of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - a sum of incongruent parts. Suspended before a New York City subway map-like background, the skull is at once a contemporary graffitist's riff on a long Western tradition of self portraiture and the "signature piece" of some anonymous, streetwise miscreant. Basquiat's recent past as a gritty curbside peddler, virtually homeless floater, and occasional nightclub interloper are all equally stamped into this troubled three-quarter profile, making for a world-weary icon of the displaced Puerto-Rican and Haitian immigrant Basquiat forever seemed to remain even while successfully navigating the newly gentrified streets that were 1980s SoHo.

Acrylic and mixed media on canvas - The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

Untitled (1982)
Artwork Images

Untitled (1982)

Artwork description & Analysis: Like a page pulled cleanly from a daily artist's journal, this untitled canvas features Basquiat's personal iconography, some reminiscent of that of Paul Klee. Boldy appropriating images commonly associated with African art - a skull, a bone, an arrow - Basquiat modernizes them with his Neo-Expressionist style of thickly applied paint, rapidly rendered subjects, and scrawled linear characters, all of which float loosely across the pictorial field, as though hallucinatory. A white skull juts from the center of the ebony composition, vividly recalling a revered painter's tradition of the memento mori - a reminder of the ephemeral nature of all life and the body's eventual, merciless degeneration. Basquiat demonstrates in one concise "study" how he is able to carry on an ancient practice of painting "still life", all the while suggesting, as does a great jazz musician, that the artist's work was relatively effortless, if not completely improvisatory.

Acrylic and oil paint stick on canvas - The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

More Jean-Michel Basquiat Artwork and Analysis:



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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Jean-Michel Basquiat
Interactive chart with Jean-Michel Basquiat's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Jean DubuffetJean Dubuffet
Robert RauschenbergRobert Rauschenberg
Cy TwomblyCy Twombly

Personal Contacts

Andy WarholAndy Warhol
Keith HaringKeith Haring

Movements

Pop ArtPop Art
ExpressionismExpressionism

Influences on Artist
Jean-Michel Basquiat
Jean-Michel Basquiat
Years Worked: 1977 - 1988
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Julian SchnabelJulian Schnabel
Francesco ClementeFrancesco Clemente

Personal Contacts

Andy WarholAndy Warhol
Keith HaringKeith Haring

Movements

Graffiti ArtGraffiti Art
Neo-ExpressionismNeo-Expressionism

Useful Resources on Jean-Michel Basquiat

Books

Websites

Articles

Audio

Videos

More

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

Jean-Michel Basquiat: A Biography (Greenwood Biographies)

By Eric Fretz

Jean-Michel Basquiat Recomended resource

By Rudy Chiappini

Basquiat

By Marc Mayer

Jean-Michel Basquiat: 1981, The Studio of the Street

By Diego Cortez, Glenn O'Brien, Gerard Basquiat

Young Fun Recomended resource

Basquiat's best work.
By Peter Schjeldahl
The New Yorker
APRIL 4, 2005

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child

By Stephen Holden
New York Times
July 20, 2010

in pop culture

Basquiat (1996) Recomended resource

Film directed by Julian Schnabel

Downtown 81 (1981) Recomended resource

Striking "lost" film that features Basquiat in lead role

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Bonnie Rosenberg

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Bonnie Rosenberg
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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