What’s in an artist? a raw affirmation of the world through words and colors? Dangerous imagery or a delicate view of things? The stroke of a brush on a blank canvas can become something significant in a second. It’s wonderful and natural. It’s art. I guess I’m floating with inspiration right now. Again, it’s because of a film. That is my art. Watching, learning, and writing my thoughts on a blank page afterwards.
I’m writing today about a great artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat, who died 26 years ago this week. August 12, 1988. A painter of words and colors as they come. Basquiat spent his nights sleeping in a card board box and scattering his Graffiti all over the streets of New York City, tagging himself as “SAMO©“. Caught by the adept eye of poet, art critic and painter, Rene Ricard, Jean-Michel was finally emerged to success exhibiting in galleries and museum all over the world. A street painter scaling up the ladder to stardom, Jean-Michel established relationships with heavy names in the art world, such as Andy Warhol, a close friend who later became a great loss to the artist. Basquiat’s life story is colorful and intense as his art, but I leave it for Wikipedia to chronicle. I’d much rather write about the underlines of the film as I see them.
I sometimes think that when something great is discovered and nurtured too much, something somewhere else is forgotten and kind of decays. Not the most positive thought, I realize. Success is often costly and creates the opposite reaction of what’s expected from it. I’ll stop speaking in riddles now and talk specifically about the film. Basquiat was a raw, fresh and innovative talent. His art was his everyday all day life. He wished to become more, making an effort to achieve it. Selling his art for what it’s worth, or just displaying it on a concrete wall for everyone to enjoy. Free art. A Brooklyn born Haitian fella looking up to the people who made it in this city. When Jean-Michel Basquiat finally got his piece of the pie, he started losing meaningful things he had forgotten about along the way up. His love, his friends, even his art at some point. He lost meaning of himself as an artist and as a human being, clinging to nothing but memories and Heroine. A person goes up, a person goes down. Sometimes it seems like it happens simultaneously. He’s not the first artist who ended up suffering from his success, but to me he sticks out. Perhaps because of his prominent style and New York hobo look. Maybe its because of the era he evolved in, the late 1970’s in the Lower East Side, where post-punk and street art ripen. It’s always fascinating to see someone slowly moving from the sidelines to the center. Maybe I like him because of his funny stoned talk and creative way of explaining things. A true artist.
Jean- Michel Basquiat joins the “27 club“. He died of a Heroine overdose at the age of 27, living behind his paintings, his music, and his artistic mark on the world.
The 1996 film was directed by Julian Schnabel, starring Jeffrey Wright as Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Bowie as Andy Warhol, Michael Wincott, Benicio Del Toro, Gary Oldman, and many more. As I usually recommend, this one also has an amazing soundtrack list, containing David Bowie, Tom Waits, Keith Richards, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, and more.
I’ll leave you with this quote, as I think it says it all: “I had some money, I made the best paintings ever. I was completely reclusive, worked a lot, took a lot of drugs. I was awful to people.” Jean-Michel Basquiat.