Jean-Michel Basquiat: A multidisciplinary artist who denounced violence against African Americans. A commentary.

By John Harbour

The exhibition Seeing Loud: Basquiat and Music, which ran at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts earlier this year, demonstrates that the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, which is usually associated with painting, also calls upon other media, including music—the main theme of this exhibition—literature, comic strips, cinema and animation, a much lesser-known aspect of his work.

Basquiat was born in New York in 1960 to a Haitian father and a mother of Puerto Rican descent. In the late 1970s, in collaboration with Al Diaz, he drew enigmatic graffiti under the pseudonym SAMO. The artist quickly made a name for himself in the New York art world (becoming friends with Andy Warhol and Madonna, among others). He then produced solo paintings and achieved international fame that continued to grow until his death in 1988.

At the time of the Black Lives Matter movement, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work is more relevant than ever. It highlights racial inequalities and the lack of representation of racialized people in the media, but also the violence suffered by African Americans.

This is what I propose to explore in this article. As a Ph.D. student in literature and performing and screen arts, my research focuses on the interactions between animated film and the visual arts (comics, painting) as well as on the American cartoon.

Read the entire article in the January/February 2023 issue of ONYX Magazine.