When one thinks of genius, often it’s associated with the great minds like Aristotle and Socrates. Most often we reserve this title to people who have changed thought in the literal sense. Few seem to use it for art. Mozart was a genius. His music has transcended time and space. It still affects people the same way as when his pieces were first played. You can even look at Leonardo Da Vinci’s murals, and be in awe for hours at how majestic his pieces were.
One such artist whose pieces are still talked about is the wunderkind, Jean-Michel Basquiat. A man whose brilliance as a street artist was more than enough for the mainstream art world to take notice and whose art inspired a new generation of artists. As for his story, outside of a biopic starring a then unknown Jeffrey Wright, whose life was marred by vultures at every corner, looking to take a bite of his light. In Paolo Parisi’s Basquiat, we get a more concise telling of his life and ultimately, his demise.
The graphic novel opens with Mr. Gerard Basquiat, Jean-Michel’s father’s door being knocked on by the NYPD who is there to ask him to identify Jean-Michel’s body, as he has just overdosed on drugs. His father, Gerard’s first memories is not when Jean-Michel was a newborn, but when his marriage fell apart, and when he got to really know his children, especially Jean-Michel. We see that he was an avid artist from a young age, often drawing, everything, from novels to comic books, to people. An accident when he was a child, truly expanded his mind, as a doctor gave him a copy of Gray’s Anatomy. It was a book that showed him endless possibilities.
The graphic novel takes his through the highs and lows of Basquit’s life. From his running away to his first television appearance and his eventual discovery by the world that lead to his fame. There’s also an exploration of the disparity between how black artists and white artists are seen by the world at large leading to race trumping aesthetic.
With the highs, there’s the lows as well such as his contentious relationship with Andy Warhol and the eventual consumption of drugs and heavy partying that would take his life.
Overall, an engrossing chronicle of one of the world’s most celebrated artists, one gone too soon. The story by Paolo Parisi is heartbreaking, epic and intense. The art by Parisi is very much in the spirit of its subject, giving the reader a surreal kaleidoscopic vision. Altogether, a biography of an artist whose story has not been given justice until now with Parisi’s deft hands and vision.
Story: Paolo Parisi Art: Paolo Parisi
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy