Basking in Basquiat: Love, Pauline

In life, we all have those moments that intrigue us, those thought provoking moments that leave us wanting more. As I continue in this learning process called life, I often encounter people who make this journey more exciting. This brings me to my latest series “Love, Pauline” where I will introduce you to the many objects and people who inspire me. The first fascinating being who has beguiled me with his art and won the eyes of many, from André Leon Talley to famed stylist Isabella Blow, is Jean-Michel Basquiat. The Puerto Rican and Hatian artist who hailed from Brooklyn and captivated the art world with his renaissance-esque pieces and SAMO sentiments.

Commencing his journey into the art-world with graffiti, the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat and then partner Al Diaz could be seen throughout the lower parts of Manhattan. An integral part of the graffiti movement Basquiat and Diaz would tag many different places with "SAMO" (which stood for same old shit) as an end to “mindwash religion, nowhere politics and bogus philosophy”. Transitioning from graffiti to painting, the sense of adventure that Basquiat embodied, took him away from his safe home in Brooklyn to the rough streets of Manhattan, selling painted t-shirts and postcards to get his art noticed. The chance encounter Basquiats art had with an art connoisseur, commenced the allowance of Basquiat to build a platform to speak his mind, heart and soul through the art world to the world. Basquiat was not only an artist but an art activist, as his pieces spoke to the environment around him and the life he lived, as apart of the youth, black and poor cultures. “When I paint I don’t think about art, I think about life” Basquiat often said, and it was poignantly exhibited through his art.asquiat and Madonna Above)The early to mid-80’s began the neo-expressionist movement that Basquiat was involved in, around the same time of Andy Warhols peak. By 1984, Basquiat was exhibiting his art all over the world, painting for hours upon hours in his Armani suits and selling his paintings for $10,000 up to $25,000. The encounter Basquiat had with the infamous Andy Warhol in 1986 (who would refer to Basquiat as a colored boy when he first met him) changed his world. Warhol became Basquiats father figure in the art world and helped to introduce him to the older generation, while Basquiat introduced Warhol to the youth culture, which maintained their mutually beneficial relationship (video of Warhol and Basquiat below)
A couple years after their first encounter, Andy Warhol died and subsequently Basquiat went on a downward spiral, further deepening him in the drug culture. As if one half of him died with Warhol, a year after the death of his art Godfather, Basquiat died at the young age of 28 from a drug overdose. Being born a couple years before the death of Basquiat, I was unable to experience first hand, the influence Basquiat had in the art world, yet it is easy to recognize the drive and passion Basquiat had for the youth, art and black culture, and that is what makes him such an influential person. Basquiat lives.

Jennifer Pauline