Jean-Michel Basquiat

30 07 2012

This is the last sort of art that I think I would have entertained as interesting. But Basquiat’s work is interesting. He doesn’t paint pictures so much as tell stories. There is information in his work, data, impressions of anger and sadness. These are like cave paintings. Or the early bible creations of monks. They assault you with a collage of data. Impressionistic in a non-visual way. A lot of what I see reminds me of Picasso. The sad thing is that this artist is dead. And his life has been romanticized. Which means his work could take second place to people’s curiosity about the artist.

Jean-Michel’s early years were spent with his middle class Haitian father, Gerard, who was unable to fulfill his son’s need for nurturing and recognition. To fill the void, Jean-Michel hit the streets of New York at a young age where art became an outlet for his anger and empty childhood. Also known by the tag “SAMO,” Jean-Michel’s unique brand of graffiti was found throughout Manhattan as early as 1976. “His work from the first consisted of conceptual, enigmatic combinations of words and symbols, executed with the curt simplicity of a late Roman inscription”, according to Henry Geldzahler, longtime curator of twentieth-century art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.’

I wrote about this artist a year ago. Upon reflection I like Basquiat’s work even more. There is of course a lot of courage in his work. If he’d been middle-class. But as a street kid I think he must have felt that this was the language he knew.

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My own impression of Warhol and Basquiat in this documentary is not favourable. Basquait seems in awe of Warhol. And Warhol looks like he needs another ‘h’ in his name.


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