Language in the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat, from graffiti to word as motif
In the wild New York of the 1980s, Jean-Michel Basquiat was the first African-American artist to receive art-world attention. The complexity and trailblazing innovative power of his paintings has been widely discussed, but this book focuses on the treatment of language in Basquiat's ouevre. With its complex structures, spontaneous rhythms and sampled, collage-like manifestations, his work was drawn into the orbit of the Beat Generation poets and the protagonists of the musical avant-garde. The multitalented Basquiat created a shimmering, syncopated fabric of images and text, which the American curator and critic Robert Storr aptly called "eye rap." It was with this unpretentious and spontaneous way of working that Basquiat rewrote art history.
Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-88) was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Puerto Rican mother and Haitian father. At age 17, Basquiat and his friend Al Diaz began spray-painting graffiti in Lower Manhattan, working under the pseudonym SAMO (for "same old shit") just as the hip-hop, postpunk and street art movements coalesced. He soon became a media darling, making music as well as art, and by the '80s he was exhibiting internationally and collaborating with Andy Warhol. Basquiat struggled, however, with depression and addiction, and died of a heroin overdose at age 27.