An inspiration for all generations. He has been called the Jimi Hendrix of the art world. And just like the great Jimi Hendrix he too left us when he was 27. He was and always will be an anomaly.
Jean-Michel Basquiat was born at Brooklyn Hospital December 22 1960. Born to a Puerto Rican mother and a Haitian father he had the influence of two very colorful cultures. Jean-Michel was a gifted child, always extremely advanced for his age. Learning to read at the age of four, being fluent in three languages by the age of eleven, and an avid and talented artist. His mother noticed his drawings and encouraged him in any way she could. She herself was a drawer, but she drew clothes, being interested in fashion and becoming a designer. This influenced him greatly, she took him to see all kinds of art, took him to the MET to see all of the classics. With her encouragement he drew and created most of his life. Basquiat had two other siblings, who were born four and seven years after him. After his youngest sister was born his mother and father separated, and his father took over custody of all three children. They lived in Brooklyn until 1974, when because of a job his father got they all moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Basquiat family only stayed in Puerto Rico for two years, and moved back to Brooklyn.
After they returned to Brooklyn in 1976, Basquiat resumes his schooling at Edward R. Murrow. He only stayed at Murrow for a short time, then transferred to a school in Manhattan, called City-as-School. An alternative high school that is for gifted and talented children that the “normal” school system does not really work for. This school was working for Basquiat; he stayed there for a year. However after a prank he pulled at his close friends graduation from the school, and only a year away himself he decided to leave the school. Finding there was “no point in going back” he said.
In June of 1978, Basquiat leaves his fathers home for good. His father is reluctant but he lets him go and gives his son some money. Basquiat leaves with the promise of fame and success. Jean-Michel begins to live with friends and just pass the time and parties. Meeting great friends and amazing people. Forming his band and just creating anything and everything he could. Drawing on everything, spray painting phrases all over the city, painting-if he could get his hands on some- on odd pieces of anything he would just find. He in a way just floated around and survived, he lived off the streets. In this same year, he saw Andy Worhol and Henry Geldzahler going into a restaurant in SoHo, went up to them and asked them if they wanted some of the postcards he had made. Worhol bought a couple but the art critic Geldzahler dismissed the artist as too young. Basquiat’s constant need to draw and paint on everything sight ruined many of personal relationships; therefore he had many affairs and not so many actual girlfriends only living with three women.
Basquiat becomes a regular at the new hot spot in downtown, Mudd Club, along with many other filmmakers, musicians, and artists. Such as Patti Astor, Madonna, Diego Cortez, Tina Lhotsky, Ann Magnuson, David Byrne and many more. Everyone sharing ideas and creativity, a constant bubble of art and music flowing all around them. Basquiat always seemed to be struggling with the racism in his life, and in his profession, it being a huge part of his art as well. Almost everyone he worked with and was friends with was white. This angered him and confused him. Jean felt pressured to represent all black people, a whole culture to be represented by one man and his art.
In the beginning of 79 Basquiat concentrates on making his postcards and t-shirts, doing drawings and making collages. Many of his pieces from that time were focused on sports, the Kennedy assassination and consumer merchandise. He sold all of these things all over the city, in SoHo, and in front of the MoMa. In...