Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks features a number of collages, from very small scale early works that incorporate photos, bits of candy and cigarette wrappers, and other found objects to larger collage paintings made from hand-drawn and Xeroxed drawings in Basquiat’s own hand. Collage is a modern art practice that dates to 1912, when Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque began pasting non-art materials to the surface of their paintings. Given the style of his writing and his poetic voice, it makes sense that Basquiat was drawn to the collage aesthetic, which aligns perfectly with his practice of gleaning from multiple sources, jumping from subject to subject, juxtaposing references to high and pop culture, and most of all, emphatically bringing the real world into the space of art. 

Examples of Basquiat’s embrace of the material world can also been seen in the exhibition in a work like Untitled (Ego), 1983, in which coffee (either spilled or gesturally applied) is one of the listed materials. Basquiat’s use of collage has an interesting parallel in his notebook writings and text drawings, which are more often than not, drawn from a variety of sources and relying on a good deal of “found text,” pulled from advertisements, conversation, and text books. A work like Untitled (Crown), 1982 is a collage made up of several hand-written sheets, each itself a rather intricate collage of ideas, the whole unified into a tight composition with a rapidly painted crown.

Posted by Tricia Laughlin Bloom
Photo: Jean-Michel Basquiat (American, 1960–1988). Untitled (Crown), 1982. Acrylic, ink, and paper collage on paper, 20 x 29 in. (50.8 x 73.66 cm). Private collection, courtesy of Lio Malca. Copyright © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, all rights reserved. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Photo:

Guernica, Pablo Picasso. Completed 1937.

“The raid on Guernica is unparalleled in military history. Guernica was not a military objective. A factory producing war material lay outside the town and was untouched. The object of the bombardment was seemingly the demoralization of the civil population and the destruction of the cradle of the Basque race.” – George L. Steer, The Times