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.
In 1988, 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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