My father once told me that Picasso used to doodle on the checks he wrote in order to give people pause. Should they cash it or wait to see what a Picasso doodle might be worth? Apocryphal or otherwise, the story has always interested me. Does the public make an artist’s reputation? Or does the artist make his (I’ll use that pronoun since I’m writing about Basquiat) own? Or do the times make the artist? Or the market? And what of the cliched but recurring artist who dies young?
Sometimes, we can intersect with a piece of art when we’re not ready for it or its moment has passed. I was aware of Basquiat. I think I even saw an exhibit of his in a London gallery. I knew there was a movie about him. But I think I was finally ready for him. Paging through his pictures and reading Emmerling’s insightful and biased text, I was struck by the intensity of his art and his connection to the likes of Joe Louis and Charlie Parker, artists in their own right who were, like Basquiat, taken advantage of by those around him. His pictures are intense and thought provoking. I wish he’d lived past 27. It seems like he had a lot more to say.