Basquiat before Basquiat – East 12th Street, 1979-1980
I have followed Jean-Michel Basquiat for some time now and his exhibit “Basquiat before Basquiat’s work is one of the few examples of how he emerged in the early 1980s from the “Punk” scene in New York to a street-smart graffiti artist and on to international art galleries.
Basquiat’s art was firmly rooted in New York’s 1970s graffiti movement. In addition, in 1972, he and a friend and fellow artist, Al Diaz started spray painting “SAMO” on buildings in Lower Manhattan. This acronym because of its meaning “credo” received median attention to local newspaper, the Village Voice.”
Jean-Michel Basquiat quickly rose to become one of the most celebrated painters of the Neo-Expressionism art movement. Despite his work’s “unstudied” appearance, Basquiat skillfully and purposely created uniqueness to his style of work, deriving in part to his rich Puerto Rican and Haitian heritage.
Basquiat frequently visited New York clubs Mudd Club and Club57 with other artist elites. During his brief time as a punk rocker, he had the opportunity to appear in the Blondie video “Rapture” as a nightclub DJ.
Neo-Expressionist movement provided an affable forum for Basquiat’s expressionism. You will see images of African and classic American punctuated in his work.
During the increase rise in fame, Basquiat created over 200 works and developed his signature motif: a “heroic, crowned black oracle figure.” These portraits, Neo-Expressionist and sketchy in appearance captured the essence of his subjects, rather than physical likeness.
By the early 1980s Basquiat collaborated on a series of works from 1984 – 1986 with friend and Pop artist, Andy Warhol. Being considered the “hot young American artist” in 1985 featured in the New York Times Magazine article, Basquiat could not suppress his troubled, short life.
Basquiat plays an important and historic role in the intensification of Punk art and Neo-Expressionism art scene in New York. I highly encourage you to see “Basquiat before Basquiat” exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver Museum of Contemporary Art. You may also want to check out several other exhibits while visiting the museum such as Wall Writers: Graffiti in Its Innocence.