Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) was an American artist who rode high in the eighties New York Art Scene. His career in art began on the streets as a graffiti artist. Under the pseudonym SAMO he’d leave political-poetical messages impregnated on city walls… ‘Plush safe he think’… ‘SAMO as an alternative to the bourgeois.’ In less than a decade, he was an international art star. His paintings often described as childlike, dealt with human anatomy, dense imagery and text, and his African-American heritage. You might find that Jean-Michel is more commonly talked of in the context of celebrity than artistically; his friendships/relationships with Warhol and Madonna continue to be critiqued in the vortex of pop culture phenomena.
With his crowning of trademark dreadlocks, Basquiat was a regular downtown fixture. His genius trapped in a burgeoning art movement set on ‘crazed’ did nothing to help slow down the excesses he became victim of. At the age of twenty-seven he was dead of a drug overdose in his Great Jones loft…the radiant child had left his canvassed works behind screaming at the world, their many faces torturing and riveting are not unlike his legacy.
“He disrupted the politics of the art world and insisted that if he had to play their games, he would make the rules. His images entered the dreams and museums of the exploiters, and the world would never be the same.” – Keith Haring
Enjoy these great links to more information on the life of Basquiat
- For a closer look at Basquiat works currently in circulation and editorial imprints from those still inspired by the Radiant Child, try Artsy’s resource.
- Use this link to read ‘The Radiant Child’, Rene Ricard’s 1981 Artforum article that launched Basquiat onto the art world.
Got Netflix? Basquiat, the movie directed by Julian Schnabel is on demand.
Or rent, Basquiat: The Radiant Child, this Tamra Davis movie boasts never seen footage.
At Basquiat’s memorial, Fab 5 Freddy “interpolated” the poem ‘Genius Child’ by Langston Hughes. You can read it here.