Friday, May 4, 2012

Basquiat and His Death

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So Young So Lost

Jean-Michel Basquiat was a young graffiti artist in New York. He was born in Brooklyn on December , 160. Ever since he was a child, he showed an interest in art which his mother encouraged. He grew up to be one of the most famous artists of our times, but also one of the most troubled. He died at the young age of 7 from a heroin overdose. I believe factors other than that of the drug overdose led to Basquiat’s death. Those factors are The stresses of being an artist in the city, hereditary depression, and the death of his good friend and fellow artist, Andy Warhol.

Jean-Michel’s career as an artist started when “he left high school a year before graduation, and sold hand-painted postcards on the streets. He also started spraying cryptic aphorisms on subways and around Brooklyn with the signature SAMO�” (Parker). “In June of 180, Jean-Michel’s art was publicly exhibited for the first time in an art show sponsored by Colab” (Parker). After this, Jean-Michel’s art career boomed. The movie Basquiat showed many of his gallery showings where he sold art for thousands of dollars. Jean-Michel faced much racism in the powerful white art world. In the movie, “His admirers said “This…is the real voice of the gutter!” At another point he is described as the “Pickaninny of the art world.” He hears “There has never been a black painter who was considered important” (Ebert) Jean-Michel later signed on with his first full-time dealer. Annina Nosei cleared out her gallery basement for Jean-Michel to use as his studio. While Jean-Michel was painting, Nosei would bring down clients and disrupt him. She would also sell his unfinished works without his permission. This upset Jean-Michel and he ended up leaving Nosei. Afterwards he went through a number of other galleries and dealers, but he had problems with almost all of them (Brain-Juice).

Jean-Michel suffered from hereditary depression. There is a scene in the movie where he goes to visit his mother. She doesn’t even respond to him. She just stares with a sad and blank look on her face. Even though Jean-Michel was surrounded by people, he still felt himself to be alone. Throughout the movie you rarely see Jean-Michel happy. He always has a distant look on his face, like he wants to escape reality. In multiple parts of the movie, Jean-Michel looks up into the sky and sees figures surfing in the ocean. He even mentions, in the last scene, of going to Hawaii (Basquiat). I feel that the need to escape reality was the ultimate reason for his drug abuse. The final straw was pulled when his friend, Andy Warhol, died.

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Jean-Michel’s and Andy’s relationship was definitely an odd one. They first met when Jean-Michel strode up to Warhol’s studio and tried to sell him some painted postcards (Basquiat). They later encountered each other at art shows where they developed a good friendship. “Apparently Basquiat was the first African American that Andy ever befriended (AXE). In Basquiat Andy and Jean-Michel were portrayed as good friends. “Warhol supplied the younger artist with introductions to wealthy clients as well as serving as a surrogate father figure” (AXE). When Jean-Michel found out about Andy’s death, it was as if the whole world shattered around him. Jean-Michel is seen walking the streets in pajamas, lost to the world (Basquiat). He abused his drugs more but “attempted to kick his heroin addiction by leaving the temptations of New York for his ranch in Hawaii. He returned to New York… claiming to be drug-free. On August 1, Basquiat died as the result of a heroin overdose. He was 7.

Drug usage was the ultimate, but not the only factor leading the Jean-Michel Basquiat’s death. He will forever be known as a landmark artist of the 0th Century. His life was a classic tragedy, but his art will live on forever.

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