by Cyd Ahlberg
The artistry and legacy of contemporary artist Jean-Michel Basquiat draws audiences of all ages to the High Museum of Art’s “Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks” exhibition. Stepping off of the elevator and onto the showroom floor, you are immediately swept away with Basquiat’s genius. Dismantled notebooks with pages and pages of content accompanied by large works of art line the perimeter of the space. Canvases that demand your attention in the center of the room have you walking around and around as you take in the essence of Basquiat. A brief video moment of the man himself directs you towards the infamous “Untitled (Crown), 1982” masterpiece along with more notebook pages and painted canvases featuring anatomy, text and historical references. Each piece contributes to an intimate look into the brilliant mind of a cultural icon.
Born Jean-Michel to Matilda Andrades and Gerard Basquiat in Brooklyn, New York on Dec. 22, 1960, Basquiat would go on to become the king of neo-expressionism. As a child he had always been fascinated by anatomy and history, which he later exudes in his renowned works. In the 1970s, he gave birth to SAMO, a graffiti collaboration with his friend Al Diaz, marking the streets of downtown Manhattan with satirical, thought provoking messages that reflected the times. Sadly, leaving this world at the ripe age of 27, Basquiat left behind the gem that is now known as “The Unknown Notebooks.”
As an artist, I have always drawn inspiration from Basquiat. From the moment I laid eyes on Basquiat’s “Untitled (Crown), 1982,” I found my calling. This piece alone has helped me develop myself as a visual artist and after years of admiring it in pictures, I have finally been able to experience it live and in person thanks to the High Museum of Art. Standing in a room full of Basquiat’s notebook pages and other works made me feel as if I was being passed the torch and beginning my journey as the next radiant child in the likes of a legend. I highly recommend that anyone who considers themselves an artist or lover of art should visit this exhibit and witness the work of a legend that once walked among us.
The “Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks” exhibition runs at the High Museum of Art through Sunday, May 29. For museum hours, visit The High Museum of Art website.