I had seen the movie Basquiat with actor Jeffrey Wright a few times on television (HBO or Showtime) when I was younger around 1997. That was the first time I had noticed Jeffrey Wright, have been a supporter of his acting since; I was and am still not familiar with artist Basquiat other than the movie. I will check out the trailer of this documentary. Thanks.
One of the best things about the movie is seeing the artist within the time frame within which he worked. Basquiat dropped out of high school in 1978 and was part of the emerging downtown art scene that included people like Keith Haring, Fab 5, Kenny Scharf and Madonna; and frequented the now famous clubs CBGB’s and the Mudd Club. I remember the underground scene in LA at the time filled with punk rockers and artists such as Gary Panter and Raymond Pettibone that worked in a similar visual vein that was a comic book/street influenced style. Both of these artists also used text in their work to make social commentary. So the current, the vibe was happening underground from coast to coast but breaking through to success is a whole other story and Basquiat did so at a lightning fast pace.
At the end of the movie we learn that Basquiat created 1,000 paintings and 1,000 drawings, a prolific amount of work for anyone much less an artist who worked for less than a decade. It’s a symbol of the fever he must have felt to do his work, to export his vision. An artist’s communication is created with visuals but there is a story underneath the canvas that has more to do with the way life has been lived and choices that have been made. It’s the inner world of images, memories, words, and identification with history that is the real story being told.
The film/rs"s romantic depiction of Basquiat is an old story. An artistically driven, voraciously ambitious, devastatingly charming wild child, he was devoured by the fame he craved and died of a drug overdose in 1988 at 27. The movie does not go into the gory details of his dissipation and addiction. Although sophisticated in its blas eacute; acceptance of art-world wheeling and dealing and the temptations that accompany sudden fame and wealth, it is also tenderly protective of its subject.