BHM Unsung Artist: Jean-Michel Basquait

Charley Dvorin, Student Journalist

Jean-Michel Basquiat, born December 22, 1960, was, and still is considered, one of the most significant artists in America. The young, Black American’s graffiti-inspired works show evidence of his intelligence through a powerful combination of lively imagery and poetic text. Only having a career of 8 years, he changed the way people viewed art and tested new waters when creating his contemporary art.

Credits to the Jean Michel Basquiat Estate

Basquiat was first recognized for his graffiti in New York City in the late 1970s under the name SAMO. This name was created with his childhood friend Al Diaz. SAMO meant “same old crap,” an inside joke the two shared. 

One of the reasons why Basquiat was so nationally praised and recognized was because he incorporated social commentary in his paintings. The commentary focused on “identifying with his experiences in the black community of his time, as well as attacks on power structures and systems of racism” (Google Arts and Culture). Basquiat inspired others to input commentary on racism and other issues in society through their own art forms. 

Basquiat’s work was shown in galleries in New York and Germany. In 1983, he began collaborating with famed pop artist Andy Warhol, and his art became even more recognized. In 1985, he was on the cover of the New York Times Magazine.

Unfortunately, Basquiat died of a heroin overdose just three years later, in 1988. Although having a short career, he left an imprint in the art world and is highly regarded as one of the first and best expressionist artists.