LIFE AND TIMES OF ARTIST
Jean Michel Basquiat was born on December 22, 1960 in Brooklyn, New York. His father, Gerard Basquiat was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and his mother, Matilde Andradas was born in Brooklyn of Puerto Rican parents. At an early age, Basquiat displayed an aptitude for art and was encouraged by his mother to draw, paint, and to participate in other art-related activities. In 1977, when he was 17, Basquiat and his friend Al Diaz started spray-painting graffiti art on slum buildings in lower Manhattan, adding the infamous signature of "SAMO" (their graffiti “tag” which stood for “same old shit”). The graphics were pithy messages such as "Plush safe he think”, “Pay for Soup”, Set it on Fire” and "SAMO is an escape clause". SAMO’s social message was critical of mainstream culture; the style was poetic with an intellectual edge. In December 1978, the Village Voice published an article about the writings. The SAMO project ended with the epitaph SAMO IS DEAD written on the walls of SoHo buildings. In 1978, Basquiat dropped out of Edward R. Murrow High School and left home, a year before graduating. He moved into the city and lived with friends, surviving by selling T-shirts and postcards on the street. By 1979, however, Basquiat gained a certain celebrity status amidst the thriving art scene of Manhattan's East Village, for his regular appearances on Glenn O'Brien's live public-access cable show, TV Party . In the late 1970s, Basquiat formed a band called Gray, with the then-unknown musician and actor Vincent Gallo. Gray played at clubs such as Max's Kansas City, CBGB, Hurrahs, and the Mudd Club. Basquiat worked with Gallo again in a film Downtown 81 (a.k.a New York Beat Movie) which featured some of Gray's rare recordings on its soundtrack. He also appeared in Blondie's video for "Rapture". Basquiat first started to gain recognition as an artist in June 1980, when he participated in The Times Square Show, a multi-artist exhibition, sponsored by...
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