Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unknown journals

Oct 3, 2016 | Sin categorizar

by TWT

Until October 16th, the Perez Art Museum Miami will present a tour through the unpublished journals of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the prolific New York artist, born in 1960. One of the most influential in the movement of the “underground” graphics and pioneer of the graffiti.

Jean-Michel Basquiat was one of the most influential and original artists of his generation. He was born and raised in Brooklyn in the early 1960s. The young artist became an art-world celebrity overnight. Although he is known for his paintings with bright, colorful figures, language was his more constant medium. Most of his drawings, paintings, and mixed-technique works have manuscripts that blurry the lines between writing and drawing, and between drawing and painting.

During the 1980s, Basquiat journaled, sketched and registered his observations of life in New York City and of culture in general. Basquiat exhibit: The unknown journals, presents for the first time, eight of the journals produced between 1980 and 1987, along with a selection of related drawings, paintings, and collages.

The journals reveal a little-known side of Basquiat and his creative process.


They are a significant resource to understand and appreciate his larger compositions.

The journals are full of descriptive texts, poems, notes, and occasional drawings. It also has the first version of recurring images in the artist’s work, such as crowns, street signs, urban traffic, and skeletons that look like masks. Basquiat was an avid observer of the history and the world around him. He criticized racism, capitalism, social and economic injustice with a deceptively childlike imagery and a sophisticated poetic voice. He experimented, in his journals as well as in his large-scale work, with the text as a visual element, carefully placing words and phrases on pages that otherwise would be empty, and intentionally changing the spelling, repeating words or phrases for emphasis and a poetic effect.

This exposition is an unprecedented opportunity to get a close look at these unusual journals, in sequence and within the context of his large-format works. It opens the door to new insights and perspectives on the art of Basquiat and his extraordinary talent for integrating word and image.


About the journals

The exact number of Basquiat’s journals is ignored. The eight presented here, produced between 1980 and 1987, reveal a persistent and deliberate practice connected with his studio work of larger size.

His preference for affordable composition notebooks is consistent with his interest in everyday objects. Even when he could afford more resistant materials, he kept using those cheap school notebooks, available in the corner shop. He used to leave the back of every page blank, to create a clean and free space in front of each text, so pages worked in an independent way.

The controlled calligraphy and his intentional writing in all capital letters give the texts of his journals an ornamental appearance that distinguishes them from traditional sketches or worldly notes. These notebooks should be understood as autonomous works of art, not as preparatory studies for larger compositions. They often contain words and ideas that are not in their large-scale works.

Ups and downs

The topics addressed by Basquiat are a heady mix of influences from elite and popular culture. Basquiat grew up in a multilingual home – his mother was of Puerto Rican descent; his father from Haiti – He began visiting the museums of New York City at a very young age. He studied art history and universal culture, and since an early age, he was an enthusiastic reader, drawer, and critical thinker. Often, he paid tribute to the great figures of art and Western literature in his work. -artists as Gerard Ter Borch and Leonardo da Vinci, and writers such as Herman Melville and Mark Twain- He had the insight to recognize both the importance of elite culture and their relationship with the historical traditions of art and literature.

In the journals, as in his other work, these references are juxtaposed with references to celebrities and popular athletes, images and everyday sounds of the city life, playgrounds, urban traffic, jazz music, advertisements, news headlines, incidents and even shopping lists, phone numbers, personal notes and other.


Perez Art Museum  

1103 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33132, United States

Monday – Tuesday 10am – 6pm

Wednesday CLOSED

Thursday 10 am – 9 pm

Friday – Sunday 10am – 6pm

Adults $16