Pieces from passed artist show inspiration

It is the final week to catch the Basquiat exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

The MFAH has been displaying the oil paintings and drawings of Jean-Michel Basquiat in the Caroline Wiess Building since Nov. 20, and they will be taken down on Feb. 12.

The exhibition encompasses his earlier works of skeletal figures and mask-like faces that show his obsession with mortality, to his more mature works before he passed away that reveal his strong interest in his black and Hispanic identity.

Jean-Michel Basquiat was born on Dec. 22, 1960 in Brooklyn, New York. He father was from Haiti and his mother was a Brooklyn born Puerto Rican.

In 1977, Basquiat began to spray paint different sayings on subway trains and sides of buildings. He would sign each one with the name SAMO; meaning same old stuff.

A year later, Basquiat quit high school just before he would have graduated and moved out of his parent’s house. He began selling hand painted postcards and t-shirts while living with various friends.

By the early 80’s, Basquiat was exhibiting his art in New York galleries and even in Europe. He had shows with artists such as Keith Haring and Barbara Kruger. He was published in the magazine “Artforum,” as “The Radiant Child” by Rene Ricard.

Basquiat and Andy Warhol became friends in 1983 and went on to collaborate and influence each other on many paintings until Warhol passed away in 1987. One of the collaborative paintings is on display at the MFAH.

In the mid 80’s, Basquiat was excessively using drugs such as heroin and his friends were becoming increasingly concerned. But he continued to make art and appeared on the cover of “The New York Times Magazine” for the article “New Art, New Money: The Marketing of an American Artist,” by Cathleen McGuigan.

Basquiat traveled to Africa in 1986, showing his work in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. That November, he had a large show of 60 paintings and drawings at the Kestner-Gesellschaft in Hannover, Germany, he was the youngest artist ever to have an exhibition there.

In 1988, Basquiat moved the Hawaii to try and recover from his heroin addiction. He returned to New York a few months later declaring that he was drug-free. Less than two months later, he died from an overdose of heroin at the age of 27.

In his short life, Basquiat produced a colorful, African-influenced, graffiti style body of art that made him one of the most important art figures in 20th century.

Admission is free on Thursday and general admission on other days is $7. With a student ID, admission is $3.50. For more information on the exhibition, visit MFAH.org.

Leave a Reply