Who Is Basquiat?

Decent Essays
Jean Michel Basquiat was a black artist known for his significant role in the Neo-Expressionism movement. His work functions in a different manner than the art community was accustomed to, his paintings mixed words and images from different cultures and beliefs, scrawled text and jarring brushstrokes became his trademark. Basquiat’s juxtaposition as a black artist in a predominantly white community had a toll on his mental health which caused an overall shift in his work. Basquiat frequently illustrated the topics of socioeconomic and racial inequalities, colonization and imperialism in his work such as Defacement and The History of Black People. These topics were no longer the main source of inspirations towards the end of his career, a time…show more content…
Part of these emotions were substance-induced and continued to heighten with pressure from the press. Warhol and Basquiat worked on a series of collaborative paintings for an exhibition in September 1985. The two were an unusual duo, Basquiat need Warhol’s fame in order to be accepted into more prominent exhibitions and Warhol “needed his new blood, he made him a rebellious image.” (Bockris) The unfavorable reviews suggested that Warhol took advantage of Basquiat’s talent and described his position as something similar to a lap dog; causing a rift in their relationship that could remain unrepaired. Warhol was a central figure in his life and his death in 1987 led to a shift in his mental health that affected his work. Basquiat’s final paintings are more simplified and spacious representing the bad state of mind he was in. Riding With Death (Fig.1) depicts decomposing, dark skinned figure riding a white skeleton that represents death. The skeleton appears to have a chunk of brown skin in its mouth. The solid background and straightforward subjects are a stark contrast against his previous work where each space had a combination of symbols and phrases, a visual college for the viewer. This painting could be described as prophetic and an envisionment of his own death. Gravestone (Fig.2) depicts a black tulip and yellow cross on the left wooden piece, the word perishable written twice and crossed out on the middle piece, and the last door has a skull with a heart as the representing the jaw. The painting is simplistic but each object is significant in understanding the overall message. The black tulips represent strength and power, the person possessing an important place in this person’s heart, and the heart as the jaw represents the love the person showed. The painting serves as a commemoration
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