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In Celebration of Basquiat

Andy Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat by Richard Day

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We frankly do not think enough people talk about the 20th century painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, who turned graffiti-primitive art into collections that were prized for their originality. Here at Fine Art America, we are all about diversity and uniqueness in art. Basquiat is nothing if not an original artist, and the flavor and color of his art represent all the best of the United States; African-American, Hispanic, Spanish and French speaking, born and raised in New York City – tell us, what is not to love about that?

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Biography

Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in Brooklyn, the son of a Haitian immigrant father and a Puerto Rican mother. He could fluently speak French, Spanish and English by the time he was 11. From the time he began school, Basquiat was recognized by his art teachers as a talented artist. Basquiat childhood was traumatic. By the time he was 13, he had faced his parents’ separation, moving to Puerto Rico and then returning, and the institutionalization of his mother. He became a runaway at 15 and a high school dropout at 17. Basquiat began to support himself by selling t-shirts and post cards.

Basquiat began painting graffiti on buildings in SoHo in the late 1970s and was quickly recognized for his artistic talent. By 1980, thanks to the influence of Andy Warhol, Basquiat had his first art exhibition, quickly followed by his own solo show, where he began to sell paintings in excess of $25,000. While he was quickly recognized as a celebrated artist, musician, and poet, Basquiat could not conquer his inner demons, and died of a heroin overdose at 27.

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Works

Basquiat’s works focused on the human body, particularly the head. “Skull” and “Head”, both done in the early 1980s, reflect the artist’s preoccupation with cerebral thought and the creative mind. In addition, there are many pieces that the artist did which reflected his cultural heritage of Haitian, Puerto Rican, and native New Yorker. His paintings also reflected the outsider nature of graffiti and the Black culture as well.

Basquiat’s work has been described as a neo-expressionist, a primitivist and a pop-artist. Like many Neo-expressionists, Basquiat borrowed from many different themes, such as the rough handling of materials and the placement of objects around and sometimes partially obscuring the main subject of the painting. In addition, because Basquiat received no formal training, he is considered by many art critics to be a primitivist as he was largely untrained. Also, Basquiat combined elements of pop art in his works, using bright colors and larger than life symbols to define a particular subject or theme.

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Suffice it to say, Basquiat is difficult to pin down, but there is nothing wrong with that, we like artists who think outside the themes planted on them by others. If you are a Basquiat lover, think about picking up a Basquiat-inspired work here. We have so many artists who loved Basquiat and his ability to bust down (and then graffiti) walls of preconceived notions. Why not pick up a work inspired by Basquiat today?

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