It's bad to use words like 'genius' unless you are talking about the late Jean-Michel Basquiat, the black Chatterton of the 80s who, during a picturesque career as sexual hustler, addict and juvenile art-star, made a superficial mark on the cultural surface by folding the conventions of street graffiti into those of art brut before killing himself with an overdose at the age of twenty-seven. The first stage of Basquiat's fate, in the mid-80s, was to be effusively welcomed by an art industry so trivialized by fashion and blinded by money that it couldn't tell a scribble from a Leonardo. Its second stage was to be dropped by the same audience, when the novelty of his work wore off. The third was an attempt at apotheosis four years after his death, with a large retrospective at the Whitney Museum designed to sanitise his short, frantic life and position him as a kind of all-purpose, inflatable martyr-figure, thus restoring the dollar value of his oeuvre in a time of collapsing prices for American contemporary art. One contributor to the catalogue proclaimed that "Jean remains wrapped in the silent purple toga of immortality"; another opined that "he is as close to Goya as American painting has ever produced." A third, not to be outdone, extolled Basquiat's "punishing regime of self-abuse" as part of "the disciplines imposed by the principle of inverse ascetism to which he was so resolutely committed." These disciplines of inverse ascetism, one sees, mean shooting smack until you drop dead.
Arts and Artists
Age and Aging