Art

feature: jean-michel basquiat’s unknown notebooks

June 1, 2015

Everyday your thoughts and decisions craft your life. Your eyes record and send messages to your brain and such messages make decisions, process issues and emotions. These are the intimate day to day moments that create our lives.
For an artist such intimacy is often found in a notebook. Today, the black and white marble of a composition book isn’t held in high regard – most people prefer Instagram and/or iPhones for expression. But the comfort found within 100 pages of blank lined paper is never lost. It is the ultimate safe place – to be angry, to be confused, to love, to long.
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Unknown Notebooks, now on view at the Brooklyn Museum until August 23, 2015, feature eight notebooks, and other previously unseen assorted works produced between 1980 and 1987. Basquiat tended to leave the back of each page blank, causing a visual of clean text for each sketch or text and leaving each new thought independent from the last.

By Moeima Dukuly, AFROPUNK Contributor
Photo credit: Jonathan Dorado


Born in Brooklyn to a Puerto Rican mother and Haitian father, the world of Basquiat was checkered with both ‘low’ and ‘high’ brow stimulation. He jotted down his everyday experiences of shopping lists at corner delis, news headlines, phone numbers, and his visits to museums and books he absorbed by authors like Herman Melville and Mark Twain.


While known for his massive colorful works, or his street graffiti under the tag SAMO¬©, his use of language is his most powerful medium. His reflections on the world around him were critical and substantial but equally childlike. Repeating a word over and over, misspelling it, crossing out certain letters were his process of analysis. With his of use text you could almost look upon his pages and see his mind breaking down concepts, shunning societal norms and contemplating injustice in the world around him. One can only imagine how his thoughts on today’s hashtags, memes and digital stimulation would effect his visuals. If you have never witnessed Basquiat’s work before, this is a chance at being as close to the artist than in the past.

Related