Jean-Michel-Basquiat:-The-Radiant-Child

SPOTLIGHT: JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT

Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) was an American artist who rode high in the eighties New York Art Scene. His career in art began on the streets as a graffiti artist. Under the pseudonym SAMO he’d leave political-poetical messages impregnated on city walls… ‘Plush safe he think’… ‘SAMO as an alternative to the bourgeois.’ In less than a decade, he was an international art star. His paintings often described as childlike, dealt with human anatomy, dense imagery and text, and his African-American heritage. You might find that Jean-Michel is more commonly talked of in the context of celebrity than artistically; his friendships/relationships with Warhol and Madonna continue to be critiqued in the vortex of pop culture phenomena.

With his crowning of trademark dreadlocks, Basquiat was a regular downtown fixture. His genius trapped in a burgeoning art movement set on ‘crazed’ did nothing to help slow down the excesses he became a victim of. At the age of twenty-seven he was dead of a drug overdose in his Great Jones loft…the radiant child had left his canvassed works behind screaming at the world, their many faces torturing and riveting are not unlike his legacy.

“He disrupted the politics of the art world and insisted that if he had to play their games, he would make the rules. His images entered the dreams and museums of the exploiters, and the world would never be the same.” – Keith Haring

Enjoy these great links to more information on the life of Basquiat

  • For a closer look at Basquiat works currently in circulation and editorial imprints from those still inspired by the Radiant Child, try Artsy’s resource.
  • Use this link to read ‘The Radiant Child’, Rene Ricard’s 1981 Artforum article that launched Basquiat onto the art world.
  • Got Netflix? Basquiat, the movie directed by Julian Schnabel is on demand.
  • Or rent, Basquiat: The Radiant Child, this Tamra Davis movie boasts never seen footage.
  • At Basquiat’s memorial, Fab 5 Freddy “interpolated” the poem ‘Genius Child’ by Langston Hughes. You can read it here.
  • For a page-turning read on Jean-Michel & the 1980s art world, try ‘Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art‘.*images Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1985 Photo: AP

Keep up with our Spotlight Series by visiting the HAHA MAG website.

For this month’s #TargetFirstSaturday, we celebrate the opening of Basquiat:The Unknown Notebooks.To properly pay homage to the life of such a creative individual, we had to get in his mindset and bring in everything Basquiat loved: from jazz, to poetry, to graffiti and more. The evening kicks off with a performance by the James Francies Trio , a jazz band with a set influenced by 1980s NYC. Once you’re in that downtown mood, head upstairs to learn more about Basquiat—either by hearing curator Tricia Laughlin Bloom discuss the creation of the exhibition, or by catching Tamra Davis’s intimate documentary, Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child

In Basquiat’s notebooks, even more than in his text-laden paintings, we can see the mind of a poet at work. Cave Canem presents Poetry Meets Art, featuring readings from LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs and Roger Reeves. You may just be moved to pen your own poetry afterwards. Luckily, we’ve got the Writhing Society here to line-break it down for you in a writing workshop. And because Basquiat got his start in that most public poetry forum of all, graffiti, you’ll also have the chance to contribute to a collective mural with Slackgaze.

For those folks with little ones out there, take a parenting tip from Queen Bey and start getting your kids into Basquiat now. Children’s author Javaka Steptoe presents his book Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Join us for a hands-on art workshop—making crowns inspired by Basquiat’s famous logo. Beyoncé, if you’re reading this, some of us here in Education think Blue Ivy would look adorable in one, so feel free to stop by!

The night closes out with a set by Lion Babe, an r&b duo Rolling Stone thinks is one of the “10 New Artists You Need to Know.” Yes, we are here to help keep y’all in the loop. Join us this Saturday for these events and more. You’ll leave with very little left Unknown about the legendary Brooklyn artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. 

Posted by Sam Kelly
Photo: Edo Bertoglio (Swiss, born 1951). Jean-Michel Basquiat on the set of Downtown 81, 1980–81. 35mm slide. © New York Beat Films, LLC. Courtesy Maripol. By permission of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, all rights reserved

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Jean-Michel Basquiat in his Great Jones Street studio, in front of a piss painting of himself by Andy Warhol. The canvas had been covered in the copper paint and urine was applied. The urine reacts with the copper paint to create oxidation, then Basquiat’s image was silk-screened onto the canvas.

Photos by Tseng Kwong Chi, 1987.