Boom for Real = Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fallen Angel, 1981

Genius Child

This is a song for the genius child.
Sing it softly, for the song is wild.
Sing it softly as ever you can –
Lest the song get out of hand.

Nobody loves a genius child.

Can you love an eagle,
Tame or wild?
Can you love an eagle,
Wild or tame?
Can you love a monster
Of frightening name?

Nobody loves a genius child.

Kill him – and let his soul run wild.

~ Langston Hughes

Growing up, art kept me busy. My mother knew this deep seeded passion within me yet insisted on telling me that artists don’t make money until they’re dead. If only she knew, making money was never a concern. She probably knows that now but making art, writing about it, and discussing it was all I ever wanted to do. Yet, my mother’s sentiments are shared by many parents.

Being an artist (any kind of artist), during one’s lifetime is challenging and burdensome. However, for the contemporary artists that brave the criticism, are precocious or highly experienced, and most importantly, believe (not think) they are the art star the world needs to know must probably learned something from Jean-Michel Basquiat’s through cultural osmosis.

After watching Jean-Michel Basquiat‘s documentary, The Radiant Child, directed and written by Tamra Davis, I found myeslf intrigued and seduced by Basquiat’s motivation, work ethic, and audaciousness. Having studied his work in contemporary art history class coupled with Google musings during slow work days, I was pretty eager to watch the film and acquired a greater sense of why anyone makes art (not just Basquiat).

The physicality involved in his work, the contour lines, bright and bold colors, and various mediums he worked with along with his use of language made for an eye opening look into what happens to he human soul when it’s allowed to roam aimlessly with paints and pens. His sensitive, impulsive, free, non-committal, bold, confident, and addictive nature come out in the film but my favorite parts of the film were of him painting and drawing. He could have said anything he wanted to in his interviews but it was watching him unfurl child like bold strokes on his canvases that made me believe he had a lot more to say than what he actually said.

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Author: Dorothy R. Santos

Dorothy R. Santos (b. 1978) is a Filipina-American writer, editor, curator, and educator whose research interests include new media and digital art, activism, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco, and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts. She serves as one of the editors-in-chief for Hyphen magazine. Her work appears in art21, Art Practical, Daily Serving, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, and SF MOMA's Open Space. She has lectured at the De Young museum, Stanford University, School of Visual Arts, and more. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” was published in The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture (2016). She is currently a Yerba Buena Center for the Arts fellow researching the concept of citizenship. She also serves as executive staff for the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism and board member for the SOMArts Cultural Center.

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