This is my entry for “J” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Other “J” documentaries I’ve reviewed include Jane and Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
Title: Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child
Release Date: July 21, 2010
Director: Tamra Davis
Production Company: Curiously Bright Entertainment | LM Media GmbH | Fortissimo Films
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts recently opened an exhibit on the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, but since no one will be visiting any museums for some time, I decided to learn about Basquiat through this movie. The movie includes archival film and photographs from Basquiat’s life (including a never-before-seen interview filmed by a close friend) as well as interviews with friends and art experts. Basquiat, who was a handsome young man with a disarming smile, grew up in Brooklyn but left home in the late 1970s at the age of 18 to join the large circle of fine artists, musicians, dancers, performers, and filmmakers who lived, worked, and played in the (then affordable) Lower Manhattan.
Basquiat first attracts attention for his graffiti tags which include social commentary in poetic language. Within two years of arriving in Lower Manhattan, Basquiat had his own studio and gained considerable fame and money for his art. Basquiat is presented as a polymath who draws on many influences from Davinci to Bebop to whatever is on tv. He’s also a very disciplined in working on his art and is ambitious to be recognized as the greatest living artist. He forms a close friendship with Andy Warhol and is something of a successor to Warhol.
Unfortunately, sudden fame and wealth come with its costs. Basquiat has to deal with many hangers-on and the paranoia and loneliness that come from not being able to trust anyone. He begins using hard drugs. And despite the recognition he does get, Basquiat is frustrated that highest echelons of the art world racistly dismiss him as a “primative” artists.
I found a lot of parrellels in Basquait’s life to Amy Winehouse in the documentary Amy (although this documentary is more well-done than Amy). And like Amy Winehouse, Jean-Michel Basquiat died at the age of 27, leaving behind a mindboggling body of work (1000+ paintings and 1000+ drawings) for his few years. I didn’t know anything about Basquiat before watching this movie, but I was glad to get the opportunity to learn about him and his thought-provoking art.