Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) was an American artist He began as an obscure graffiti artist in New York City in the late 1970s and evolved into an acclaimed Neo-expressionist and Primitivistpainter by the 1980s. Throughout his career Basquiat focused on “suggestive dichotomies,” such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience.
Basquiat’s art utilized a synergy of appropriation, poetry, drawing and painting, which married text and image, abstraction and figuration, and historical information mixed with contemporary critique. Utilizing social commentary as a “springboard to deeper truths about the individual”,Basquiat’s paintings also attacked power structures and systems of racism, while his poetics were acutely political and direct in their criticism of colonialism and support for class struggle.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, born in Brooklyn, New York after the death of his brother Max, was the second of four children of Matilda Andrades (July 28, 1934 – November 17, 2008) and Gerard Basquiat (born 1930) He had two younger sisters: Lisane, born in 1964, and Jeanine, born in 1967. His father, Gerard Basquiat, was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and his mother, Matilde Basquiat, of Afro-Puerto Rican descent, who was born in Brooklyn, New York. Matilde instilled a love for art in her young son by taking him to Art Museums in Manhattan and enrolling him as a junior member of the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Basquiat was a precocious child who learned how to read and write by age four and was a gifted artist.] His teachers noticed his artistic abilities, and his mother encouraged her son’s artistic talent. By the age of eleven, Basquiat could fluently speak, read, and write French, Spanish, andEnglish.
In September 1968, when Basquiat was about eight, he was hit by a car while playing in the street. His arm was broken and he suffered several internal injuries, and eventually underwent a splenectomy. While he was recuperating from his injuries, his mother brought him theGray’s Anatomy book to keep him occupied. This book would prove to be influential in his future artistic outlook. His parents eventually separated that year and he and his sisters were raised by their father. The family resided in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, for five years, then moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1974. After two years, they returned to New York City.
Then when he was eleven years old, his mother was committed to a mental institution and thereafter spent time in and out of institutions. At 15, Basquiat ran away from home.He slept on park benches in Washington Square Park, and was arrested and returned to the care of his father within a week. Basquiat dropped out of Edward R. Murrow High School in the tenth grade. His father banished him from the household and Basquiat stayed with friends in Brooklyn. He supported himself by selling T-shirts and homemade post cards. He also worked at the Unique Clothing Warehouse in West Broadway, Manhattan.