Exhibitions: Basquiat

Works from 1983
Basquiat reached full maturity as an artist in about 1983, when he was twenty-two years old. Encouraged by success and optimistic about his life, he made paintings that year that are among the strongest and most complex of any in the twentieth century. This was also the year he was included in the Whitney Biennial, a prestigious exhibition of contemporary art. His girlfriend at the time, Paige Powell, introduced him to her boss, Andy Warhol, who soon became Basquiat's closest friend.

It was also in 1983 that a young, black graffiti artist named Michael Stewart died in suspicious circumstances while in police custody. Having once practiced graffiti himself, Basquiat realized that he could have suffered the same fate. Like many New Yorkers, he was deeply affected by the incident. Subsequently, his work began to explore themes drawn from the African Diaspora more fully, specifically the African experience in America.

An interviewer asked Basquiat in 1983 if there was anger in his work. "It's about 80% anger," he replied. The interviewer continued, "But there's also humor." To which Basquiat answered, "People laugh when you fall on your ass. What's humor?"

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