understanding an artist – The Daily Free Press

Jean-Michel Basquiat was 15 when his Haitian father caught him smoking weed in his bedroom and in the scuffle, stabbed his son in the ass with a knife.

It was then – Basquiat would say later – that he knew he had to leave.

Haley Alvarez-Lauto | Senior Graphic Designer

He left his parents’ home and spent the next few years living with friends or in homeless shelters, regularly painting bomb poetry around Brooklyn. His tag was SAMOshort for “same old sh-.”

His poetry was direct, simple, and profound for those of us who just tolerate civilization.

He also painted on frameless doors and cardboard boxes because he could not afford canvases. On the street, he sold decorated postcards and sweatshirts.

Meanwhile, the underground art scene made SAMO a legend.

After a falling out with his graffiti partner Al Diaz, he started writing “SAMO is dead” around Brooklyn. At this time, he began to paint on canvas in preparation for his first gallery in New York during the exhibition “New York / New Wave” at the Museum of Modern Art.

The gallery has been a huge success. Soon after, the art curator, Annina Nosei, invited him to work in her studio in the basement. There, Basquiat would arrive at 9 a.m., smoke joints, and work until 5 a.m. For source material, he kept the TV on and had the textbooks – drawing phrases and pictures to include in his work.

Critics’ opinion of Basquiat’s workspace was negative. They saw Basquiat as a savage – locked in his basement, when he was forced to paint.

In 1982, art critic Jeffrey Deitch wrote, “Basquiat is compared to the wild boy raised by wolves, locked in Annina’s basement and given beautiful clean canvases to work on instead of nameless walls…But Basquiat is not primitive. He looks more like a rock star.

Almost everything written about Basquiat had a racist side to it.

I say “had” because now that he’s dead there’s only his art – no longer the dark-skinned person attached to it – so the reviews are rave reviews. Throughout his career, he was always portrayed as “another savage”, something his white friends and fellow artists Keith Haring and Kenny Sharf were hardly subjected to, although they also emerged from the scene. graffiti from the late 70s.

However, Basquiat continued to rise – fueled by his originality and dedication. He was working all the time. In 1982 alone, he created 200 paintings, most of which sold for millions.

In 1984, he began a close collaboration and friendship with Andy Warhol. Basquiat liked Warhol to be part of the artistic aristocracy he wanted to join. Warhol liked Basquiat to be an indomitable and creative genius of the new generation.

When their collaborative paintings were created, critics burned Warhol for using the young star. Now suspicious of Warhol, Basquiat severed their relationship and sank deeper into drug addiction.

Three years later, he died of a heroin overdose. In 2017, his painting “Untitled: Skull” sold for $110.5 million.

It’s true, as the poet Charles Bukowski says, “the better a man gets, the more he is envied and, in turn, hated.”

Christy J. Olson