Artist Focus: Jean-Michel Basquiat

Although I have never had the chance to see an exhibited retrospective of his work, the few times I have seen one of his works and ever since I have seen recorded versions of them, I have been fascinated with the images that Jean-Michel Basquiat created. Similarly to the way that Keith Harings work entrances me visually with its simple elegance and ease, the images that Basquiat created always seem to me to be hypnotic, natural and completely liberated. Perhaps it is quite natural to draw some parallels between these two artists, even if at first obvious glance their styles differ, much of their artistic drive and motivation stem from social ideas and popular culture which surrounded them. Harings art was deeply socialy motivated, he explored themes of sexuality and sexual identity, HIV and poverty. Basquiat similarly explored social inequality, heritage and heroism. These artist where both active street artists who gained critical acclaim during their lifetimes and died very young.

But back to Basquiat. There are a few things I wanted to address which I really enjoy about this artist. The first thing which I only recently learned is that Basquiat was self taught. The fact that he never went to art school and learned the ‘proper way’ of doing things and yet still managed to create the work that he did fascinates me. It is even more astonishing however, that he managed to gain the level of fame that he did, at such a young age and so quickly. He was not limited to any specific imagery or media, he worked on anything, with anything and made works that incorporated abstract, illustrative and writing in one. I also love the vibrancy of his work, this kind of, ‘fuck it’ radical exuberance that just jumps out at you from the paintings and captivates you. 

I started doing art classes with kids this summer and I think it has really changed the way I view creative process and what is ‘beautiful’. Maybe more so than change it, it has reminded me what it really is, and I think I see that in Basquiat, and I love it. 

Check out both of these artists and read more about them, you won’t be disappointed. 

some different ideas such as sexuality and sexual identity and Basquiat similarly worked with images of heroism, injustice, social inequality etc. The two artists were both active street artist who worked in New York, each died before their time. 

Basquiat was a self taught artist who was not only a talented artist but also loved poetry and music. 




Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring


Jean-Michel Basquiat, Philistines, 1982


Keith Haring, Brazil, 1989


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