The documentary shares the story of pre-fame Jean Michel-Basquiat. A skinny 16 year old with ambitions of being a famous artist. With no concern of the medium: acting, music, painting — by any means necessary.
The documentary starts with the sound of the tides from the Hudson River rolling inland. President General Ford speaks of the state of New York City. NYC is on the brink of financial default with drugs, crime and pollution plaguing the city.
This has a large effect on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The residency is down, occupants only account for 20-30%, so landlords choose to defraud the insurance companies by having people burn the buildings down.
The Wild, Wild (Lower East). There was no law, people sold drugs in the open and the streets were completely vacated. However, this lawlessness created an ironic safe haven for people to meet intimately, share ideas and indulge in social drugs.
The time served as an incubator for young Basquiat, who like many others were looking for a sense of respect — an unapologetic “see me” mentality.
Jean was different from other artists because he understood how to market his work. Known as SAMO, same old shit, although he borrowed the idea from a friend, Al. Jean used the saying as a conscious effort to call out status quo, big business and politics which started dialogue amongst his audience.
He was into letting art be itself. He let his art drip (on the paper). Very childlike, Lee Quiñones (pioneer graffiti artist, appeared in Wild Style)
Art is transferable. The creative process can cover the whole spectrum. Fab 5 Freddy, a pivotal part in defining Hip Hop culture, recognized this early. The Fabulous 5 engineered the event, Beyond Words, which showcased graffiti artists, break dancers, DJ and emcees. One named Afrika Bambada, which said playing for the punk rock goers inspired the record “Planet Rock.”
The eruption of graffiti ignited the youth, Jean Michel-Basquiat fueled the movement that would change the complexion of 20th century art.
Boom For Real: The late teenage years of Jean Michel-Basquiat available here