Getting to know JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT

I first discovered Jean-Michel Basquiat through an artist friend Kawayan de Guia. I only recognize Basquiat through his grafitti-like scriblings but I never knew much about him… not until a few weeks back when I went to the avant-premiere of a documentary on him entitled The Radiant Child…

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It was interesting for me to learn how he works, he paints with the tv and music player on. He got a lot of inspiration and stimulation from news, books and most especially bebop jazz music… It was also cool to find out that Basquiat formed a musical art band called Gray (based on his favorite book as a child – Gray’s Anatomy) where he would read out poetry and play a clarinet  which he really doesn’t even know how to play:D  It was experimental NO Wave music, truly ahead of its time.

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For me, he didn’t come off profound during his interviews but I feel that he articulated himself more in his paintings, he spoke through his art. He is actually known as the artist who painted with words. He first started painting on walls (graffiti) and then on doors or windows that he found on the street then somebody discovered his talent and gave him money to buy paint and canvas… Basquiat rose up to fame in just 2 years until he dove into his heroin-overdosed death…

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At Le Nouveau Latina Cinema, we were lucky to have the director Tamra Davis there along with other characters (including ex-girlfriend) that was part of Basquiat’s colorful and short-lived artistic life. During the Q&A, somebody asked why Madonna wasn’t interviewed, it would be too distracting, Tamra said. One of the members of Gray was also there and said that after watching the film many times, the screening in Paris was special and it made him appreciate the film more.  Also found out that the ex-girlfriend and live-in partner of the artist was a former waitress and punk who is now a psychologist. She looks so different from the archive film footage! Tamra said it was very difficult to make this documentary, it took her 20 years to finally unearth all the film footage she shot of her friend. She also had a young female editor who helped her push the story’s point of view, to define it more and to dig deeper…

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~After the screening, I went up to the director and introduced myself. I asked her about the artist’s father who was always mentioned in the docu but that angle was never really explored. Found out that she didn’t really want to put too much emphasis on that and the father preferred that as well. He has not seen the docu at all but she said she has given him a copy of the film’s script/transcript for his approval (for the release of the film).

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with Madonna

the infamous collaborative show of Warhol & Basquiat
In an early TV appearance, the interviewer talking to Basquiat makes the mistake of telling him that his work is “primal.” Basquiat retorts, “You mean like an ape?”

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The documentary opened and ended with this lines from Langston Hughes poem…

“This is a song for the genius child. Sing it softly, for the song is wild.

Sing it softly as ever you can–lest the song get out of hand.

Nobody loves a genius child.

Can you love an eagle, tame or wild? Wild or tame, can you love a monster, of frightening name?

Nobody loves a genius child.

Free  him and let his soul run wild.”

* all images taken from the Net

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3 thoughts on “Getting to know JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT

    1. Ey mansy 🙂 maybe you can download it somewhere. The docu -film was very enlightening for me. It was interesting for me to hear him actually speak and see him in action. I saw his works at the modern art museum and after seeing the film, i got a better sense and another perspective of his art.

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