Artist: Jean-Michel Basquiat
Edition size: Open edition book
Medium & Dimensions: Hardcover, 21 x 26 cm, 96 pages
From the streets of New York to the walls of its most prominent galleries, follow the short, prolific, and politicized career of Jean-Michel Basquiat, a cult figure of artistic social commentary. This introduction explores how the young trailblazer drew from inspirations as varied as Greek, Roman, and African art, along with French poetry and jazz, to create visceral images mixing word with bold color.
An icon of 1980s New York, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988) first made his name under the graffiti tag “SAMO,” before establishing his studio practice and catapulting to fast fame at the age of 20. Although his career lasted barely a decade, he remains a cult figure of artistic social commentary, and a trailblazer in the mediation of graffiti and gallery art.
Basquiat’s work drew upon diverse sources and media to create an original and urgent artistic vocabulary, biting with critique against structures of power and racism. His practice merged abstraction and figuration, poetry and painting, while his influences spanned Greek, Roman, and African art, French poetry, jazz,and the work of artistic contemporaries such as Andy Warhol and Cy Twombly. The results are vivid, visceral mixtures of words, African emblems, cartoonish figures, daubs of bold color, and beyond.
This book presents Basquiat’s short but prolific career, his unique style, and his profound engagement with ever-relevant issues of integration and segregation, poverty and wealth.
Leonhard Emmerling received his doctorate from the University of Heidelberg for a thesis titled “Jean Dubuffet’s Art Theory.” Since 2010 he has headed the Visual Arts Division at the Goethe-Institute’s head office in Munich and was previously active as a curator at various art institutions in Germany. His publications include TASCHEN’s Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jackson Pollock.
American, 1960–1988, New York, New York, based in New York, New York
A poet, musician, and graffiti prodigy in late-1970s New York, Jean-Michel Basquiat had honed his signature painting style of obsessive scribbling, elusive symbols and diagrams, and mask-and-skull imagery by the time he was 20. “I don’t think about art while I work,” he once said. “I think about life.” Basquiat drew his subjects from his own Caribbean heritage—his father was Haitian and his mother of Puerto Rican descent—and a convergence of African-American, African, and Aztec cultural histories with Classical themes and contemporary heroes like athletes and musicians. Often associated with Neo-expressionism, Basquiat received massive acclaim in only a few short years, showing alongside artists like Julian Schnabel, David Salle, and Francesco Clemente. In 1983, he met Andy Warhol, who would come to be a mentor and idol. The two collaborated on a series of paintings before Warhol’s death in 1987, followed by Basquiat’s own untimely passing a year later.