Basquiat @ Black Rat Gallery
Born in Brooklyn in the 60’s to a Puerto Rican mother and Haitian father Jean-Michel Basquiat lived a short but extraordinary life.
He started painting at a young age and as a high-school student spray painted graffiti on buildings in lower Manhattan under the name of SAMO, defining his work using philosophical quotes such as “SAMO as an end to to mindwash religion, nowhere politics and bogus philosophy” “SAMO does not cause cancer in laboratory animals” and “SAMO as a neo art form”.
When Basquiat was 18 legendary free arts tabloid Village Voice published a selection of his work and quotes. From here his notoriety developed and he grew to become the first painter of African descent to become an international art star.
The fame and fortune overwhelmed Basquiat and he was unable to keep control of the commotion surrounding him. He was rarely sober and would behave erratically; painting barefoot in expensive suits and then wearing the paint splattered outfit for days. At the age of 25 Basquiat appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine in a feature entitled “New Art, New Money: The Marketing of an American Artist”, three years later he died of a heroin overdose.
Basquiat drew this untitled piece aged 21 using wax crayon on paper – an impressive and vibrant example of his work. The skull was a favourite motif and appears often in both paintings and drawings accompanied by words and combination of letters and numbers, the symbol of a heart with a cross also appears in several works. The crown drawn in red on the upper right is another motif used extensively from around 1982 onwards, used a legacy of his days as a graffiti artist and is commonly used today to represent his continual influence.
Address: Walk through Cargo Garden, Arch 461, Kingsland Viaduct, 83 Rivington Street, London. EC2A 3AY.
Nearest tube – Liverpool St / Old St
Dates – 22nd April – 20th May 2010
Hours: Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 6pm. Saturday 11am – 4pm
Information: 020 7613 7200