Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat (Dec. 22, 1960 – Aug. 12, 1988) is well known for his neo-expressionist, graffiti-like paintings. Born in Brooklyn, NY, his mother was of Puerto Rican descent and his father was Haitian. Even at a young age it was obviously that he was a gifted student. He could read and write by the age of four, was fully fluent in three languages and was a talented artist

His parents divorced and his mother eventually was committed to a mental institution. He ran away at 15 because of this unstable home life. He began creating artwork and selling it while living on the streets in order to support himself. 

In his work, he incorporated poetry, drawing, text and images. He blended together abstraction, figuration, historical information as well as contemporary criticism in his paintings.


Outward social commentary in his artwork became a tool for Basquiat to identify his own experiences in the black community of the time. He examined power structure, systems of racism, colonialism and class struggle. His images and visual poetics were densely inscribed and equally political and direct.