The Eternal Muse: Basquiat

Jean Michel Basquiat

Though the world may never fully understand him or why he burned out so quickly, the art he left behind is beyond captivating.

I wanted to be a star, not a gallery mascot.

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It’s hard to believe that Jean-Michel Basquiat only lived to be 27years old. His courageous work, his stamp on the art world and voice remains strong long after his 1988 death.

Basquiat first achieved notoriety as part of SAMO (pronounced Same-oh. as in same old shit) an informal graffiti group who wrote enigmatic epigrams in the cultural hotbed of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City during the late 1970s where the hip hop, post-punk and street art movements had coalesced. By the 1980s he was exhibiting his Neo-expressionist and Primitivist paintings in galleries and museums internationally. The Whitney Museum of American Art held a retrospective of his art in 1992.

Basquiat’s art focused on “suggestive dichotomies,” such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience.

 He appropriated poetry, drawing and painting, and married text and image, abstraction and figuration, and historical information mixed with contemporary critique.

Basquiat used social commentary in his paintings as a “springboard to deeper truths about the individual”, as well as attacks on power structures and systems of racism, while his poetics were acutely political and direct in their criticism of colonialism and support for class struggle.

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“I don’t listen to what art critics say. I don’t know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is”.

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I thought I was going to be a bum the rest of my life.

Basquiat’s Crowned Life

A crown appears frequently in the early work of Jean-Michel Basquiat signaling his ambition and understanding of art history. Many artists used their monarchs to symbolize their own majestic powers and Basquiat, lacking one, continued the tradition in his own way. Besides, Basquiat was ambitious and out to become king of the pack. One friend who knew him early on wrote: “He could walk into a thrift store with five bucks and come out looking like a king. In fact he basically behaved like a king who had accidentally switched lives with an identical pauper.”

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I had some money, I made the best paintings ever. I was completely reclusive, worked a lot, took a lot of drugs. I was awful to people

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I was a really lousy artist as a kid. Too abstract expressionist, or I’d draw a ram’s head, really messy. I’d never win painting contests. I remember losing to a guy who did a perfect spiderman.

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Believe it or not, I can actually draw.

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Since I was 17 I thought I might be a star. I’d think about all my heroes, Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix. I had a romantic feeling about how these people became famous.

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I am not a black artist, I am an artist.

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SAMO as an end to to mindwash religion, nowhere politics and bogus philosophy.

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“Fire will attract more attention than any other cry for help.”

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“Most Young Kings Get Their Heads Cut Off”

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“Pay For Soup/Build A Fort/Set That On Fire”

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“SAMO as an end to bogus pseudo intellectual. My mouth, therefore an error. Plush safe.. he think.”

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“SAMO as an alternative 2 playing art with the ‘radical chic’ sect on Daddy’s $ funds.”

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“I don’t think about art when I’m working. I try to think about life.”

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About Crown Life Magazine (116 Articles)
Editor-in-chief Jennia Fredrique is a writer, lover, actor, philanthropist, laugher, hedonist, dancer and human. She studies metaphysics and believes that life is a daring adventure or nothing at all... her current goals are flying a kite, riding a hot air balloon and having tea with the queen....

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