In 1980, Jean-Michel Basquiat
was an unknown black graffiti artist sleeping in a cardboard box at night and
covering New York City with his “SAMO” tags by day. One year later, the New
York art scene was on fire with his “ignorant art”: bold, primitive drawings
and paintings with words scrawled across the surface, sometimes on canvas,
sometimes on wooden doors or anything else available, incorporating black
American icons like Joe Louis and Charlie Parker with more classical elements.
Soon Basquiat was keeping company with the SoHo gallery in-crowd, which
included Andy Warhol, Francesco Clemente, Keith Haring, and Julian Schnabel.
While Basquiat’s paintings were exhibited in galleries all over the world, the
SAMO graffiti disappeared from the New York cityscape- pried off fences and
walls by opportunistic thieves, the works were sold for thousands of dollars to
collectors eager for a piece of the brilliant young artist.
Basquiat died of a drug overdose at the age of 27, shortly after the death of
his close friend and sometimes-collaborator Andy Warhol. Now, eight years
later, in his writing and directing debut, Julian Schnabel has made a film [For
a review of the film, see Yabroff’s ATN column, “Through A Glass
Darkly” ] about Basquiat’s life, and the times and scene
in which he swiftly rose to such great heights.
During the Eighties, Julian
Schnabel acquired the reputation of being the enfant terrible of the New
York art scene, with a personality as big and brash as his wall-size paintings.
But if his temperament …
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