If any one of you knew of Basquiat you would know that he lived in a world where dreams became reality. In his short career, Jean-Michel Basquiat was a phenomenon. He became notorious for his graffiti art under the nickname Samo in the late 1970s, sold his first painting for $200, and became best friends with Andy Warhol. Appreciated by both the art cognoscenti and the public, Basquiat was launched into international stardom. As a successful black artist, he was constantly confronted by racism and misconceptions. Much can be gathered from insider interviews and archival footage, but it is Basquiat's own words and work that powerfully convey the mystique and allure of both the artist and the man.
Despite his work's "unstudied" appearance, Basquiat very skillfully and purposefully brought together in his art a host of disparate traditions, practices, and styles to create a unique kind of visual collage, one deriving, in part, from his urban origins, and in another a more distant, African-Caribbean heritage. One particular artwork that illustrates this – Flexible (1982) features two of Basquiat's most famous subjects: the griot and the venerable crown. A sole black figure, half corpse, half living body, stares "blindly" at the viewer, its arms creating a closed circuit, perhaps a reference to spiritualised energy? With few distinguishing characteristics, the subject takes on the expression 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. Given that the griot is traditionally a kind of wandering philosopher, street performer, and social commentator all in one, it is probable that Basquiat saw himself in this role within the New York art world, one that nurtured his artistic success but also swiftly exploited it for material profit.
One can now probably identify with the artist and the importance of uniqueness, expression through art and celebrating individuality. Surround yourself with those who also dream big so that your artistic success not only can be fostered but also be used rewardingly. Like Basquait be a Neo-expressionist ‘The New Wild Ones’; be true to your art even though criticised – Be You. As it goes ‘Nobody wants to be part of a generation that ignores another like Van Gogh’.
‘No Face’ piece By – Devon Barksdale (Dallas, Texas) An inspired by Basquaits artwork – Orange Sports Figure (1982)
Written By – Abi Robles (210516)