Jean Michel Basquiat

SAMO, 1978

About:

December 22, 1960 Jean-Michel Basquiat was born at Brooklyn hospital. He and his mom would visit the Brooklyn museum, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Museum. Mother would encourage his artistic side In 1967 Basquiat creates a children’s book with Marc Prozzo. Basquiat’s parents end up getting a divorce at the age of seven, he and his sisters end up living with their father and due to job relocation move to Mira Mar, Puerto Rico. 1977 Basquiat has run away from how, second time, and enrolled in City-as-School with fellow graffitist artist Al Diaz. He ends up creating a fictional character named SAMO (Same Old Shit) who makes a living selling a fake religion. Basquiat and Diaz collaborate on the SAMO project as a way to let off steam, they write witty philosophical poems. Diaz was the one to graduate first between the two but the day of Diaz’s graduation, Basquiat pulled a prank on the principle and dropped out of school. He decided to leave his family to pursue his dreams in which his father supported him. In 1979 Basquiat has a falling out with Diaz leading to the ‘death’ of SAMO but Basquiat then takes the SAMO as his staple piece. October of 1982 it was thought the Basquiat was not a graffiti artist since his work didn’t follow the colorful palate that graffiti was first known for. That was overlooked since he had great success of his work at such a young age and being a man of color, his work got recognition in the art world. As he was pursuing his art career, he becomes great friends with Andy Warhol who he has many works done together. He and Warhol were very close, being a very young artist and trying to go through his accomplishments alone really ended up getting to Basquiat, his substance abuse started getting worse and worse as he got older. After the death of Warhol, trying to help Basquiat wasn’t possible; he and Warhol had been in an argument the year prior to his death but nevertheless his death had a huge impact on Basquiat.

Warhol and Basquiat, New York, 1985

My Opinion:

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an artist I didn’t know much of, his work I hadn’t seen. The first time I ever remember seeing his work was through a makeup brand. It was the first time i had seen his version of the SAMO along with the crown that seems like one of signature symbols/Logos that he seemed to use. After learning a little more about Basquiat, through research and from a cousin of mine, I was first shocked on how little recognition he had on his graffiti work; compared to the one that Banksy has. Since to me it appears he is one of the original graffitists since as learned that it was during the time that graffiti was starting out, Basquiat was also starting his artist career. Along with him being at the start of graffiti, he was a person of color too. Which is what also got to him as he did his work, it seemed the pressure he put on himself over it was what made his drive take him to the success that he ended up getting. Sad to have read the pressure he put himself through and the little recognition he has from it. If I’m being honest his work didn’t catch much of my attention in the beginning as well since I am used to the bright colors, a standard to graffitiing, but his work can be used in an argument in if just because he didn’t follow the ‘standard’ of graffiti, does his work not count as graffiti?


“02 The Artist.” Jean-Michel Basquiat, http://www.basquiat.com/artist.htm.