basquiat, coltrane, holiday come alive in these graphic novels
By Erin White
May 28, 2019
Loving the shit out of Black culture, Italian illustrator Paolo Parisi is paying homage to some of the most prolific Black artists of the 20th century with a series of graphic novels. The first book in the collection was the dope Coltrane, a visual biography of the Jazz saxophonist that explored the essence of Coltrane’s legacy and impact on music in general through illustration. The graphic novel aimed to inspire readers to dive deeper into the man and the legend. But most recently, Parisi has his sights set on the life and artistry of singer Billie Holiday and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Basquiat: A Graphic Novel is set in grimy 1980s New York City where we walk through Basquiat’s journey from street artist SAMO to the international golden boy of contemporary art. Inspired totally by Basquiat’s own aesthetic, the graphic novel is depicted through the use of primary and secondary colors — a favorite of JMB’s and his contemporaries at the time. Taking liberties with his story, the graphic novel errs more on the side of creative non-fiction than strict biography.
In Blues for Lady Day: The Story of Billie Holiday, Parisi aims to capture the feel and impact of the First Lady of Jazz rather than to convey data or dive deeply into historical context. Taking creative license, Parisi’s stories are imaginative reconstructions that celebrate as well as educate and encourage readers to learn more about this majestic Black figure.
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