The Unknown Notebooks
February 28-May 29, 2016
This exhibition will feature rare notebooks created by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988), offering an intimate look at the life of the influential contemporary artist who died tragically at age 27. Filled with Basquiat's handwritten texts and sketches, the 160 unbound notebook pages will be presented along with 30 related paintings, drawings and mixed-media works drawn from private collections and the artist’s estate, as well as a Basquiat painting from the High's collection.
Created between 1980 and 1987, the notebooks demonstrate how Basquiat began to develop the artistic strategies that would inform his large-scale works. He combined text and images in a raw expressionist style to explore culture and society through historical and popular themes. Early sketches of subjects that recur in later works, such as tepees, skeletal faces and crowns, appear in the earliest notebooks from 1980-81. The notebook writings range from extended narrative poems and wordplay to observations of New York's street life, along with lists of celebrities and incidental notes from the artist's personal life. As in his paintings, fragments of found texts appear throughout the notebooks, incorporating street signage, news stories, and references from literature and the Old Testament. Other pages reflect Basquiat's overriding interest in highlighting racial discrimination and acknowledging the important contributions of African Americans and other people of color, as well as his interests in music, world history and popular culture.
Exhibition Organization and Support
This exhibition is organized by the Brooklyn Museum.