Jean-Michel Basquiat


Jean-Michel Basquiat [bah-skee-ott] (1960 – 1988) was a Neo-expressionist painter who got his start as a graffiti artist in NYC in the late 1970s. He died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27. In 1976, Basquiat and friend Al Diaz began spray-painting political-poetical graffiti on buildings in Lower Manhattan, working under the pseudonym SAMO. In 1979, he formed the noise rock band Gray with Vincent Gallo. In 1983-84 he was a frequent collaborator with Andy Warhol. The record price for a Basquiat painting is $14.6 million, paid in 2007 for an untitled 1981 piece. In keeping with his street art roots, Basquiat often incorporated words into his paintings.

He would often draw on random objects and surfaces. A major reference source throughout his career was ‘Gray’s Anatomy,’ which his mother gave to him while in the hospital at age seven. It remained influential in his depictions of internal human anatomy, and in its mixture of image and text. Other reference sources were Henry Dreyfuss’ ‘Symbol Sourcebook,’ Da Vinci’s notebooks, and Brentjes’ ‘African Rock Art.’ Basquiat doodled often, and some of his later pieces, done mostly with colored pencils on paper, exhibit this, often with a loose, spontaneous, and dirty style much like his paintings.

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