Nobody loves a genius child.”
– “Genius Child” by Langston Hughes
Like so many other contributions of various minority cultures throughout American history; the contributions, content, and character of Jean-Michel Basquiat were not at all something I learned in any classroom. Instead, I became familiar with Mr. Basquiat the good old-fashioned way — a museum!
Recently, out of a desire to become more familiar with his process and the person he was behind the canvas, I checked out Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, an amazing documentary released back in 2009 that highlights the story behind his swift rise to fame.
Let me tell you — I loved it!
I loved being taken back to late 1970s New York and being allowed to experience via live footage, photos, newspaper clippings, and in-depth interviews; the climate responsible for producing some of today’s foremost artists, playwrights, musicians, and writers. It was an absolutely stunning experience from beginning to end.
Most shocking to me perhaps, was the shy, almost guarded way in which Basquiat reacted to direct questions regarding his process and his description of his work. He consciously avoided describing his work, thus perpetually avoided being boxed into one category and the destructive limitations of said category. It was genius! Even moreso because of his age. The mistake of self-labeling, thus subconsciously limiting oneself is a mistake made even by the most experienced artistic veterans.
At the minimum, Basquiat was a revolutionary — but, more than that, he was an inspiration.
Furthermore, I had no idea he had an affair with Madonna! I didn’t know he hobb-nobbed with the likes of Andy Warhol! And I was shocked to hear explosive stories of the things he would do to those whom attempted to commission him to create work that “matched their couch!”
This documentary was fascinating, amusing, inspiring, and heartbreaking all in one.
I gave it five stars.