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JEAN MICHEL BASQUIAT

ARTIST // WHO WAS JEAN MICHEL


BASQUIAT?

Born on December 22, 1960 in


Brooklyn, New York, USA.
Died on August 12, 1988 (aged
27) in Manhattan, New York, U.S
due to drug overdose.
Basquiat's works are much harder
to explain than what a first or
superficial analysis could make
believe, being inspired by multiple references such as contemporary
artists like Picasso, the jazz music, the African art and culture, and perhaps
even the drug abuse.
With a Haitian-American father and a Puerto Rican mother, Basquiat's
diverse cultural heritage was one of his many sources of inspiration. A selftaught artist, Basquiat began drawing at an early age on sheets of paper
his father, an accountant, brought home from the office. As he delved
deeper into his creative side, his mother strongly encouraged to pursue
artistic talents. From there, he developed a strong bonding with his
mother.
In 1980, when he was only 19 years old, Basquiat took part in the
exhibition "Times Square Show", and attracted the attention of both critics
and specialized press. The following year, he exhibited at the P.S.1 Gallery,
where he achieved a great success, and he began his friendship with one
of the most famous and controversial artistic personalities of that period,
Andy Warhol. Warhol and Basquiat admired each other, and collaborated
in almost a hundred works. In 1983 Basquiat travelled to the Italian city of
Modena, where he attended to his first individual exhibition. This muchhyped event was a extraordinary success, making him the most respected
Afro-American painter.
Basquiat is recognised as one of the most influential artists of the
twentieth century with his works exhibited in museums all over the world.
As a result of thousands of paintings and drawings produced by Basquiat,
his distinct practice identifies him as a Neo-Expressionist, and graffiti
contemporary artist who also combined the art movement of primitivism.

ARTWORK // HOW DID HE MAKE HIS


ART?
FLEXIBLE
/ Completion Date: 1984
/ Style: Neo-Expressionism
/ Genre: figurative
/ Technique: acrylic, crayon
/ Material: wood, rock, stone
/ Dimensions: 259 x 190.5 cm
/ A sole black figure, half cadaver, half
living entity, stares "blindly" at the
viewer, its arms creating a closed
circuit, perhaps a reference to
spiritualized energy. With few distinguishing characteristics, the subject takes on
the visage of the Everyman. At the same time, this is not just any figure, but one
of African ethnicity and proud heritage a clear reference to Basquiat's own
identity (note the diagrammatic rendering of the figure's lungs and abdomen,
reminiscent of the young Basquiat's fascination for Gray's Anatomy sketches).

DOS CABEZAS
Completion Date: 1982
Style: Neo-Expressionism
Genre: figurative
Technique: acrylic, crayon
Material: canvas
Dimensions: 152.5 x 152.5 cm
Gallery: Private Collection
/ Basquiat painted Dos Cabezas, a double
portrait showing Warhol next to Basquiat,
within only hours of meeting his hero,
had it delivered to the Factory, the paint
still wet, emphatically indicating the
younger artist's enthusiasm and excitement on meeting the King of Pop.
Basquiat explored the contrast between the two in the picture's dichotomy: he
presents Warhol as a glacial figure, pale, his head topped with one of his
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notorious wigs; this starkly contrasts with the thrusting black marks Basquiat
used to depict his own hair, as recorded in Warhol's portrait of him. Basquiat
presents it as a thrusting group of black tendrils snaking into the picture
surface's right half, as reminiscent of Franz Kline's paintings as of Basquiat's hair
as recorded in Warhol's portrait and contemporary photographs.

FUEGO FLORES (FIRE FLOWERS)


Completion date: 1983
Style: Neo-Expressionism
Material: canvas
Genre: figurative
Technique: acrylic and oilstick
Dimensions: 66.12 X 59.87 in (167.94 X 152.07
cm)
At the centre of the canvas a fiercely
expressive stark black figure stares fixedly out of the picture plane, the tonal
drama of its silhouette seizing our attention and launching out against the
backdrop of beautifully mediated pastel hues. Surmounting the figure is a heavily
delineated head that is exactly representative of Basquiats most powerful motif.

(3) WORLD//

Basquiat composed works on the streets whilst keeping the tradition of


Street art, however he moved away from it and became involved with fine
art. He developed an intimate relationship with Warhol, whom similarly is
regarded as an influential artist.
The introduction of Basquiats works and street art was different to the art
world as they has not witnessed artworks of such nature and character
prior to street art, thus this art movement questioned the decadence of
art.
His works were interpreted deviant and provocative due to its divergence
from what was considered art.
He challenged the art world in exhibiting childlike artistry by which much
confusion circulated the prevalence of street art against the role of high
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art and what was considered art. Street art opposed the tradition of high
art being technique and fine precision which is appropriate for display. It
gained notoriety for its presence in art galleries of fine art, and became a
movement of expression despite the unsanctioned production.

Challenging the conventional methods of art viewing and graffiti art, at


the pinnacle of the art movement as it led to a change and shift in
perspective of high art and the concept of elitism.
It was unrestricted in expression and location in exhibition on the streets,
as opposed to the traditional art venue of any gallery, which differed from
mainstream and tradition artists.
They communicate with the public by showcasing their works in public
rather than confined spaces of galleries in the formal art world.
Venue of street art being on the streets enabled its artists to challenge art
forms.
Street art did not discriminate and catered its exposure to audiences
regardless of their social class, thus denouncing elitism.
Basquiats works were exhibited throughout New York, with his graffiti art
frequently viewed on the street walls.
His works were exhibited on found objects of flat characteristics like doors,
windows, tabletops and refrigerators, which he collected from his friends
and the streets.
Displaying his work in art galleries with his growing popularity.
With the development of technology, graffiti art can be viewed on the
internet and exhibited in various art museums and galleries which results
in a more universal audience.

ARTIST WHO WORKED IN A SIMILAR WAY TO BASQUIAT//


DUCHAMP//

Marcel Duchamp
FOUNTAIN (1917)
glazed ceramic with black paint
61cm x 36cm x 48cm

Marcel DuChamp, French- American artist associated with Dadaism


Emerged in the twentieth century as a response of its artists in opposition
towards cultural values they believed were the catalyst and springboard
for WWI, thus the artists sought to reveal the futility of war.
Scattered humour, conspicuous puns and everyday objects were combined
through recontextualisation to create ready-mades which were
disapproved by society.
The dada movement were parallel to Basquiat in questioning the values of
high art in which deviates from the confines of the formal art world.
Both Basquiat and Duchamp demonstrated radical connotations to
communicate to the public and composed in manners which furthered
their intent.
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Their works were provocative, unfamiliar and unrestrained to what was


considered art, thus both artists caused turbulence and speculation within
the art world.
Fountain (1917) by Duchamp, the subject matter of his art opposed the
values of high art and focused on conveying messages and confronting
audiences, much alike Basquiat

KEITH HARING//

Keith Haring, Untitled (Yellow Figure), 1982,


baked enamel on metal, 109,2 x 109,2 cm

American artist who responded to street culture of New York during 1980s.
His art expressed concepts of political, historical and social issues
including birth, death, sexuality and war.
Harings techniques emerged with chalk drawings and street graffiti in
subway stations to reach a wider audience.
Basquiat and Haring prudently produced works of childlike fascinations,
which were detailed and symbolic of messages they aimed to convey.
Haring was inspired by the study of semiotics, which prevail in his works.
Both Basquiat and Haring were graffiti artists who catered their art to a
larger audience to stimulate questions from the public.
Creations of Haring featured bold lines with vivid colours that stood out
and differed from Basquiat in technique and expression.
Haring focused on imagery and solid lines whilst Basquiat manipulated
symbolism through simplistic childlike gestural lines.
ANNADALE IMITATION REALISTS//

Place made: Annandale, New


South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings,
oil, synthetic polymer paint,
collage of found objects on
plywood
Dimensions: 183.0 h x 122.0 w
cm Framed 1843 h x 1240 w x
125 d mm

Mike Brown, Colin Lancely and


Ross Crothall who developed their
interests in fields of assemblage,
collage, junk art and non-western
art.
Scraps and debris from the
streets were collected to create
their art.
The Annadale Imitation Realists
represented a complete disregard for accepted artistic value and alike
Basquiat, deviated from the mainstream and social standards of what was
regarded as art.
Brown made use of decorations based on primitive art, surrealist
automatism as their works were abstract in nature and also incorporated
in primitive motifs and text comparable to Basquiat.
Just like Basquiat, they worked on found objects from the streets, viewing
the table as a canvas and the objects, though they had their own
individual reality, as formal parts of an an abstract design, quoted Collin
Lanceley.
They embellished various kinds of paint and other materials in the creation
of unorthodox pictures, which resembles works of Basquiat in Byzantium
(1961)

BANKSY//

Banksy
If graffiti Changed Anything (2011)
Spray painted, stencil
Fitzrovia, London

English graffiti artist Banksy, extends art of Basquiat through street


art and subversive epigrams using a distinct stencilling technique,
as shown on the picture above.
Messages of anti-capitalism, anti-war and anti-establishment are
overt in his works as they are emphasised through humorous
images of dark and political connotations.
He extends the art of Basquiat through using art as a form of
protest to project his beliefs and to oppose the corruption of society,
also the value of high art.
Works of Banksy are strictly displayed on public surfaces like walls
to showcase his messages to a widespread audience.
His art is provocative in creating controversial political statements.
The messages conveyed and the techniques used to bring forward
his statement correspond to those of Basquiats.
Distinction between Basquiat and Banksy involves the exhibition of
their art. Both originated from the streets as graffiti artists.
Basquiat progressed into galleries of fine art, whilst Banksy refrains
from formal art galleries whilst also achieving the market value of a
fine artist.

JR//

French

photographer and artist JR, works similarly to Basquiat by ways of


approaching the walls as a gallery as stated by JR, the largest art gallery
in the world.
Techniques of JR include flyposting large black and white photographs in
public locations similar to Basquiat and also started his career in the
streets.
Renowned for flyposting images of ordinary people regardless of social
class onto public locations.
JR does not discriminate by catering to the elite and high art through
enabling his art to be exhibited to audiences beyond mainstream art
galleries, thus challenging elitism.
Differs from Basquiat through his subject matter and technique like
photographing people as opposed to Basquiat rendering childlike
fascinations within paintings.

NEW YORK AND THE 1980S//

Basquiat was influenced and inspired by the lifestyle of African American


people residing in the United States., violence of the streets, urban hip hop
culture, and his personal life including the influence of Andy Warhol.
1980s were era of redefined popular music of rap and the presence of
AIDS.
Illegal drug trade additionally flourished New York during the 1980s as
crack influenced Basquiat which ultimately affected his work as the drugs
broadened his thoughts and eventually resulted his death.
His works emphasise themes of racial and class segregation, and the
streets as it reflects the context of his work by which the themes recur
throughout his artworks.
Racial tension heightened in the city with the murder of three African
American in predominately white neighbourhoods as this furthered
Basquiats creation of his works.
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Basquiats indulgence in elite privileges of success also inclined himself to


be prolific in accordance to the pressure from such success.

AUDIENCE//
Basquiats Untitled (History of the Black People) from 1983 was indicative of
the influence of Renaissance thinkers and artists on his work. The work itself
showed many similarities to Renaissance paintings; the painting included
multiple panels and revealed stretcher bars. In this particular piece, Basquiat
lived out a struggle which was all too familiar to him; the racial reality of the
United States. Intelligent and able to think for himself, Basquiat was very afraid,
and often paranoid, of the trouble he faced as both a black man and a black
artist in New York. He once told an interviewer, I am not a black artist, I am an
artist. Though Basquiat made multiple trips to Africa and was heavily invested
in African-American movements, he was also readily aware of the troubles he
faced and the judgements made against him because of his race. This painting
recreates his own ancestors arrival in the United States as slaves while also
drawing attention to centres of African American culture.
I believe I can actually draw

Jean-Michel Basquiat

The Eddie Murphy of the art World,


-

Robert Hughes (art critic), 1985

Hughes compared Eddie Murphy with Basquiat as untalented symbols of their


pop culture. He viewed Basquiats artworks as empty prose and deceit,
elevating Basquiat to a status of being a symptom of art world hype.
Like his bebopping hero Charlie Parker, Jean-Michel Basquiat was a genius as
well as a notorious junkie who eventually fell harder than the Tower of
Babel ,
-

Michael A. Gonzlez (writer)

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WHO SAW HIS WORK//

Basquiats graffiti art caught attention to a wide spectrum of audience.


Viewed by those passing by on the streets as his art was located on the
street walls, and at art galleries and exhibitions.
Art critics, auctioneers, dealers and celebrities.
His artworks received admiration from Warhol and Haring who both
became intimately associated with Basquiat.
Australian artist, Gordon Benner viewed the work of Basquiat and
responded through creating series of artworks called Notes to Basquiat

Gordon Bennett
Notes to Basquiat (911) 2001
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Collection of the artist, Brisbane, Australia.

Various artists express direct references to Basquiat in appropriating his


style and technique.
Basquiat accommodated for his art to be viewed by people of all walks of
life, as Basquiat was once homeless.
Basquiats works continue to be viewed in society of the twenty -first
century with multiple references from music artists like Jay Z.
His works persist in exhibitions in contemporary society and on the
internet.

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RELATIONSHIP WITH AUDIENCE//

Basquiat intended to raise awareness about issueshe felt necessary to


expose. .
Recurring themes of racism were explored in his art, and he persisted in
promoting history and exploiting the oppression felt and experienced by
African American people.
He permitted his works to be seen by a universal audience as his art was
of graffiti. Thus, his message was able to be conveyed on a grand
platform.
Basquiat challenged his audience and attracted additional audience and
viewers through questioning widely held preconceptions as his artworks
were unusual and confronting.
Stimulating nature of his works provoked and challenged preconceptions
of art and society in ways his worked received differing interpretations.

BIBLIOGRAPHY//
http://www.abc.net.au/arts/blog/arts-desk/Gordon-Bennett-artist-who-scaledheights-of-artworld/default.htm
https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/h/hoban-basquiat.html
https://www.google.com.au/url?
sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CDgQFjAE
ahUKEwis-a-Q1JLJAhXBjJQKHTRnDP0&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.artsy.net
%2Fartist%2Fjean-michelbasquiat&usg=AFQjCNF33xR8KCD6lxii2tCCa85Dtqb82Q&sig2=52g1hvOJb3WRJs
pbIAIwLw
http://www.moma.org/collection/artists/370
http://www.vanityfair.com/news/1988/11/jean-michel-basquiat
http://www.spin.com/2013/11/beat-bop-basquiat-k-rob-rammellzee-freak-freak/
http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/jean-michel-basquiat-the-radiantchild/ZX6332A001S00

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