In his short career, Jean-Michel Basquiat was a phenomenon. He became notorious for his graffiti art under the moniker SAMO in the late 1970s on the Lower East Side scene, sold his first painting to Deborah Harry for $200, and became best friends with Andy Warhol. Appreciated by both the art cognoscenti and the public, Basquiat was launched into international stardom. However, soon his cult status began to override the art that had made him famous in the first place.
Now director Tamra Davis pays homage to her friend in a definitive documentary, titled “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child”, the film was a labor of love for Director Tamra Davis, (who met the artist in 1983) and with the screenwriter Becky Johnston (who interviewed him on camera in 1988 two years before his death at age 27, from a heroin overdose).
Thus far, two notable films have been made to document Basquiat’s life. Basquiat himself played a character role in “Downtown ‘81,” and Julian Schnabel’s “Basquiat,” with Jeffrey Wright in the title role, both these films however were partly fiction, and it became clear to Davis that there was little of the actual Basquiat on film.
Tamra Davis’ 88 minute documentary delves into Basquiat as an iconoclast. His dense, bebop-influenced neo-expressionist work emerged while minimalist, conceptual art was the fad; as a successful black artist, he was constantly confronted by racism and misconceptions. Much can be gleaned from insider interviews and archival footage, but it is Basquiat’s own words and work that powerfully convey the mystique and allure of both the artist and the man.
Scheduled for it’s World Premier at the Sundance Film Festival starting January 21st, 2010.
Visit at Sundance Film Festival’s’ official website here for more information on screening times. Or take a look at T Magazine’s report here on the film’s preview screening which took place earlier in December in Miami.
Video below shows a 1986 interview with Basquiat featuring Andy Warhol (From the final episode of State of the Art, a series of documentaries about the visual arts in the 1980s.)
[youtube width="600" height="400"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foerFJqupYM[/youtube]