Basquiat needed fame. He didn't need money or power but fame. The spotlight saved him from disappearing into the chaos rising in him. It gave him an image of himself he could exist within, a manufactured self to show the world and also hide behind. He of course was the audience member who didn't believe it. Again and again he fought his way out until nothing was left but a man who died in his dreams. Yes Basquiat did kill himself and we paid to see it.
Because society is less concerned with understanding the meaning of artistic production than with promoting and profiting from name brand artists' commodities, it creates personal mythologies which insure the chosen's entry to the pantheon, all the more compelling if the artist has the good taste to die young. Keats, Kahlo, Pollock, Parker, Plath, Hendrix, Cobain, and thousands of other less recognizable names; usually some form of self-destruction is involved. ("Die young, and stay pretty", sang Blondie's Debbie Harry, who managed to avoid that fate.) In the 80s art world, the two meteors were Jean Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Hagiography blinds hindsight, and the meaning and method of the work of both these artists are ripe for re-investigation. Though both were associated early on with the East Village, both saw the world (and the streets) as a greater canvas, to be re-coded and interpreted through a personal yet largely accessible visual hermeneutics
I made a schema for this review of Hoban's book on Basquiat, like a five-pointed star. It went Basquiat (book) voices schizophrenia music Basquiat. I was tormented badly this past year by a black-magic spell and ripped off by my record label. Both things cause me to lift books and magazines from stores sometimes, and as I was flyering for an indie movie, I snatched this book after scanning it. Basquiat's complete collection was in my possession as I flew from New York to Santa Monica & I spent the flight drinking in his figures, cartoons and diagrammatic bravados, like "Famous Negro Athletes" and "Most Young Kings get their Heads Cut Off." It was my clerical job at Christie's in 1989 where I first encountered Basquiat and as the book chronicles, after he died of a heroin overdose, they inventoried and sold his work.