Much is known about Jean-Michel Basquiat, given his high-profile rise from the New York underground in the late ’70s to a posthumous retrospective at the Whitney in 1992. But not many know that the autodidactic artist kept prodigious notebooks that, filled with poetry, sketches, and observations on race and class, were essentially studies for his large-scale paintings.
At the Brooklyn Museum, the first major exhibition of these notebooks showcases nearly 200 pages of these rarely seen documents, along with related works on paper and large-scale works. The pages on display contain early renderings of the crowns, stick figures, and skulls that appear throughout Basquiat’s oeuvre, as well as the juxtaposition of words and images, stressing the importance of writing throughout his process.
The Unknown Notebooks, April 3 – August 23, 2015, Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NYC