I was exposed to Basquiat's work very early on in my life. As a child, my father told me about him, comparing the way I drew Universal Monsters characters to Basquiat's drawings, explaining that the artist often left drawings laying all over his studio and just walked over them, leaving tell-tale smudges and grime on their surface. Through high school, I read about him and developed my own obsessions with a number of his heroes: Max Roach. Charlie Parker. Dizzy Gilespie. Miles Davis. Learning their licks and themes and improvising over the progressions from their compositions.
I think my familiarity with Basquiat's art made it an easy transition towards studying jazz guitar. As an influential figure in art, Basquiat is arguably the greatest American artist who ever lived, often appearing in discussions of art alongside Caucasians like Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Keith Haring, and Jackson Pollock. His work can be read so many different ways, as a massive critique of high culture and elitism, a sweeping dismissal of capitalism and the 80s as a whole, as the struggle of a black man who has grown up in a society that accepted the beatings of African Americans, as an artist who was functioning on the cusp of the end of a golden era and the beginning of cultural decline and eventual collapse.
His paintings are provocative and often confront racism directly. I've often insensitively joked that his short career can be divided into three stylistic periods: cocaine, heroin, and speed balls, respectively corresponding to his early period (child-like raw expressionist canvases with no text), his middle period (intricate text and collage alongside his distinct figures), and his late-period (which was very sparse in comparison to his earlier work, and includes the Eroica paintings).
I've included a number of links to quite a bit of content. He was incredibly influential when I began working and I purposely imitated him as best as I could when I began painting. It was how I learned. I caught a lot of flack for it, but I knew I had to do it as I had no other role models as an artist and his outsider status was very relatable to my own (self-taught, disabled, bisexual, arrest record). I made my last Basquiat inspired canvas in September or October of 2016 and I learned a lot from imitating his work, particularly basic skills like working with oil stick, acrylics, brush selection, spray paint, collage, gesso, raw canvas, and so forth. He's important and if he is not the greatest American artist who ever lived, he is at least the most important artist to have worked in the last 40 years. There is a good reason why his art sells for so much, each painting is completely one of a kind and there can never be any others like his.
Composer, Artist, Writer