Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why Creativity is a Double-Edged Sword-The Inspired Work of Jean-Michael Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat was a Neo-Expressionist painter in the 1980s who was known for  his primitive, symbolic and colorful style as well as having been a collaborator with 60’s pop artist, Andy Warhol who spiraled to fame at a young age, then all too soon, was gone in the blink of an eye.
The Neo-Expressionism movement first made its presence known in West Berlin, Germany in 1963 with a controversial artist by the name of Georg Baselitz. As soon as officials saw the contents of his show,

, the artworks were quickly confiscated for obscenity offenses. The use of expressionism figuration soon began to be noticed in the art world where iconology and even painting was ebbing into pop art and minimalism. This new movement eventually branched out into its own varied genres, with the artists associated ranging wildly in their interpretations and interests. Some of the older artists such as Francis Bacon were claimed to precede this movement, while others associated with the trends in the U.S. of the 1970s, such as “New Image Painting” were also related to Neo-Expressionism. Thus, these artists began a revival of Expressionism that characterized powerful colors, dramatic forms, and subject matter that stirred the emotions.

Jean-Micheal Basquiat’s work was all that and more. It was expressionistic, primordial and idealistic. He created work that was at first glance seemed frenzied without order or meaning but which at its core went to the heart of history and myth, restating in new and powerful ways the redemptive power of art.  As with many artists, the pain and hardships of growing up in the inner city is both a source of inspiration as well as a source of heartache.  Basquiat was adept at incorporating bold, striking images, bright splashes of color, figurals and symbology that were undoubtedly inspired also by his diverse and cultural background of Haitian-American father and Puerto Rican mother.

He was self-taught and had drawn from a very young age.At the height of his career, he had exhibited around the country as well as the world, but while his fame grew, his problems with drugs and alcohol also grew.  He was becoming at times paranoid and isolating himself from the world around him. He died of a heroin overdose in 1988 after attempts at being clean failed.

So, even though his short time on earth brought him fame and his career lasted but a fleeting moment, what he brought to the creative world especially in terms of bringing the artistic expression of African-Americans and Latinos into wider views cannot be overlooked. This is tragic end to what should have been a wonderful rags-to-riches story, if only his demons had been kept at bay.

The very thing that makes some artists create the masterpieces that they do, is the same thing that can drive them to the depths of despair; extreme poverty, violent or chaotic home-life,  low self-esteem, mental illness. While they can perhaps reach fame and fortune, these shadows of their past still haunt them. This is the legacy of too many artists, to draw a fine line between those inspired moments and the demons that will draw them into the darkness. It is a fine line, indeed.

“Neo-Expressionism” at
Art Directory
Huffpost Arts & Culture

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May your Spirit Soar, 
Your ideas take flight, 
And you create
 With Golden Quill.

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