Text plays a crucial role in the work of Brooklyn-born artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, often overwhelming visual aspects with a mass of black scribbles. From his initial work as a graffiti artist in Lower Manhattan with which he announced his creative voice as SAMO©, Basquiat engaged in a discourse on race, wealth, and art in America. Had his whirlwind life been slightly different, Basquiat may well have achieved fame as a poet.
Given the importance of text to Basquiat’s work, it should come as no surprise that he kept copious notes. He preferred cheap, marble composition books, some of which you can now see on display at the Brooklyn Museum in a new exhibition “Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks,” or as the exhibition’s synopsis puts it “#basquiatnotebooks.” While this much hyped exhibit offers the opportunity to see Basquiat’s famous textual artistry on a smaller, more concentrated scale, the exhibition’s mixed messages could lead some visitors astray. (more…)