Jean-Michel Basquiat (New York City, 1960 - 1988) was a voracious autodidact, he quickly became a denizen of the explosive and decadent New York underground scene- a musician who loved jazz, and a street poet who scrawled his sophisticated aphorisms in Magic Marker across the walls of downtown Manhattan, signing them under the name SAMO. In 1981, he got rid of his alter ego and began painting and drawing, first on salvaged and found materials then later on canvas and paper, and making bricolage with materials scavenged from the urban environment.
From the outset he worked compulsively; his passion for words and music, his intense yet fluid energy, and the heterogeneous materials that he employed so freely imbued his work with urgency and excitement. Basquiat was a prodigious young talent, fusing drawing and painting with history and poetry to produce an unprecedented artistic language and content that bridged cultures and enunciated alternative histories. Combining materials and techniques with uninhibited yet knowing and precise intent, his paintings maintain a powerful tension between opposing aesthetic forces; expression and knowledge, control and spontaneity, savagery and wit, urbanity and primitivism, while providing acerbic commentary on the harsh realities of race, culture, and society.
Basquiat is represented in several prominent museum collections all over the world. Major solo exhibitions include “Jean-Michel Basquiat: Paintings 1981–1984,” Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; “Basquiat,” Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland; and “Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks,” Brooklyn Museum, New York (2015). Basquiat starred in “Downtown 81,” a verité movie that was written by Glenn O’Brien, shot by Edo Bertoglio, and produced by Maripol in 1981, but not released until 2000.
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