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September 27, 2017

Those Who Came Before: Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michael Basquiat

Welcome to another installment of Those Who Came Before where we take a look at the upcoming film from Sara Driver that focuses on the brilliant and influential artist, Jean Michael-Basquiat. Now he may not be known to many comic fans but many artists of the medium know his work well and count him among one of the greats to share his talent with the world.

Director Sara Driver’s Boom For Real: The Late Teenage years of Jean-Michel Basquiat is a intimate portrait of the artist that paints as a mythological figure even in his teens. The film never veers far from the LES (Lower East Side) of his youth but by doing so creates a inter-connective tissue of the cast of characters that circles the area in the end of the 1970’s and beginning of the 1980’s.

The film starts laying the ground work by introducing the omnipresent backdrop of New York City and the LES (Lower East Side). Crime ridden, bankrupt, and gutted by white flight it functions as its own character. The film builds up Basquiat’s own kind of omnipresence as he was at every where. he did everything, he did art, he did music, he was a personality that believed he was going to be famous even in these early years. Through his tag as SAMO, a tag he claimed after working on it with Al Diaz, Basquiat really was everywhere in the area if you looked around. Using the SAMO tag Basquiat bridged the gap of graffiti, narrative story telling and poetry. The use of words and story telling defined the early work of Basquiat in the late 1970’s. The work described an urgency of the the movement going on in the city, anti-establishment and fed up of the art elite that couldn’t see the deteriorating city around them.

Through the dirt and grime of bouncing around on the Bowery, Basquiat intersects the lives of more than a few notable personalities including filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, muralist Lee Quiñones, fashion/designer mavenPatricia Field, and artist/Hip-Hop legend Fab Five Freddy. Through the eyes of his contemporaries the idea of Basquiat’s artistic output and the pervasiveness of the art a world view can be made of the era and the art world at the time. Even when talk veers towards the rest of the swirling world of the LES Basquiat finds his way into the mix, as he did with Colab, the collective art movement, who threw shows in the burned out vacant buildings of the area as a fuck the SOHO art establishment. Here Basquiat basically announces through his art that he is SAMO, the graf writer whose work everybody has been surrounding the art elite on their own turf in SOHO. Every opportunity presented Basquiat found a place for himself in as the center – even if it was in somebodies relationship.

Through his time as a figure in the area Basquiat had been crashing at the apartments of various women including his girlfriend at the time, Alexis Adler,  after the long nights of partying at the likes of Club 57 and Mudd club. For a time he stayed with Felice Rosser, Jennifer Jazz, and along with Alexis they were a sort of family unit of artist. Which fills in for his background before his teen years and grounds his myth in reality as these are the people who knew him outside of his art even if he brought his art home with him be it paintings on the fridge or industrial music at 3am.

Running a lean 78 minutes this film cuts just shy of Basquiat and his art explosion only mentioning a brief encounter with Andy Warhol and a segue way into the drugs and their use by the masses at the time to experience what they thought were their heights. Only in the last few minutes does the film touch upon race in any meaningful way as Basquiat is the voice of the new generation, the non white and male dominated era. His art, as may reference to it, has a childlike innocence at being unabashed and fearful and that coming from a Black male at the time was revolutionary. His influence imparted upon many in the LES and reverberates with my interest being a comic book fan wishing there were more leaps taking forward in storytelling. This film along with 2010’s Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radient Child, and 1996’s Basquiat for a trio of essential films that capture a moment in time not only of an artist but an era new artistry.

Boom For Real: The Late Teenage years of Jean-Michel Basquiat will make its US  premiere October 8th, 2017 with Q&A with director Sara Driver.

 

Kaos Blac

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