His career, both actual and posthumous, appealed to a cluster of toxic vulgarities. First, the racist idea of the black as naif or rhythmic innocent, and of the black artist as "instinctual," someone outside "mainstream" culture and therefore not to be rated in its terms: a wild pet for the recently cultivated collector.
Second, a fetish about the freshness of youth, blooming among the discos of the East Side scene.
Third, guilt and political correctness, which made curators and collectors nervous about judging the work of any black artist who could be presented as a "victim."
Fourth, art-investment mania. And last, the audience's goggling appetite for self-destructive talent: Pollock, Montgomery Clift. All this gunk rolled into a sticky ball around Basquiat's tiny talent and produced a reputation.
"Basquiat's career was incubated by the short-lived graffiti movement, which started on the streets and subway cars in the early 1970s, peaked, fell out of view, began all over again in the 1980s, peaked again, and finally receded, leaving Basquiat and the amusingly facile Keith Haring as its only memorable exponents. Unlike Haring, however, Basquiat never tagged the subways. The son of middle-class Brooklyn parents, he had a precocious success with his paintings from the start. The key was not that they were "primitive," but that they were so arty. Stylistically, they were pastiches of older artists he admired: Cy Twombly, Jean Dubuffet.
Having no art training, he never tried to deal with the real world through drawing; he could only scribble and jot, rehearsing his own stereotypes, his pictorial nouns for "face" or "body" over and over again.
Consequently, though Basquiat's images look quite vivid and sharp at first sight, and though from time to time he could bring off an intriguing passage of spiky marks or a brisk clash of blaring color, the work quickly settles into the visual monotony of arid overstyling. Its relentless fortissimo is wearisome.
Critics made much of Basquiat's use of sources: vagrant code-symbols, quotes from Leonardo or Gray's Anatomy , African bushman art or Egyptian murals. But these were so scattered, so lacking in plastic force or conceptual interest, that they seem mere browsing - homeless representation.
"The claims made for Basquiat were absurd and already seem like period pieces. 'Since slavery and oppression under white supremacy are visible subtexts in Basquiat's work ,' intoned one essayist in the catalog to his posthumous retrospective at the Whitney Museum, 'he is as close to Goya
Another extolled his 'punishing regime of self-abuse' as part of 'the disciplines imposed by the principle of inverse asceticism to which he was so resolutely committed.' Inverse asceticism, apparently, is PC-speak for addiction. There was much more in, so to speak, this vein.
But the effort to promote Basquiat into an all-purpose inflatable martyr-figure, the Little Black Rimbaud of American painting, remains unconvincing."
From "American Visions", by Robert Hughes
the basquiat camp strikes back
timeline and videos
from brooklyn museum
more on basquiet
1998 exhibition - installation photos
biennial sao paulo
+ I start a picture and I finish it. I don't think about art while I work. I try to think about life.
+ I thought I was going to be a bum the rest of my life.
+ 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.
+ 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.
+ Believe it or not, I can actually draw.
+ Since I was 17 I thought I might be a star.
SAMO Graffiti - Basquiat began as a graffiti artist, signing his name as SAMO. Below are a few SAMO sayings or SAMO quotes..
SAMO as a neo art form
SAMO as an end to to mindwash religion, nowhere politics and bogus philosophy.
SAMO as an escape clause.
SAMO as an end to playing art.
SAMO as an end to bogus pseudo intellectual. My mouth, therefore an error. Plush safe.. he think.
SAMO as an alternative 2 playing art with the 'radical chic' sect on Daddy's $ funds.
JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT (as SAMO): Interviewed on TV Party
From Glen O'Brien's NYC cable access show, TV Party (1978-1982)
Jean Michel Basquiat - Painting Live, Downtown (1981)