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Reading Basquiat: Exploring Ambivalence in American Art

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Before his death at the age of twenty-seven, Jean-Michel Basquiat  completed nearly 2,000 works. These unique compositions―collages of text  and gestural painting across a variety of media―quickly made Basquiat  one of the most important and widely known artists of the 1980s. Reading Basquiat  provides a new approach to understanding the range and impact of this  artist’s practice, as well as its complex relationship to several key  artistic and ideological debates of the late twentieth century,  including the instability of identity, the role of appropriation, and  the boundaries of expressionism. Jordana Moore Saggese argues that  Basquiat, once known as “the black Picasso,” probes not only the  boundaries of blackness but also the boundaries of American art. Weaving  together the artist’s interests in painting, writing, and music, this  groundbreaking book expands the parameters of aesthetic discourse to  consider the parallels Basquiat found among these disciplines in his  exploration of the production of meaning. Most important, Reading Basquiat  traces the ways in which Basquiat constructed large parts of his  identity―as a black man, as a musician, as a painter, and as a  writer―via the manipulation of texts in his own library.


  • Product Dimensions :  7 x 0.9 x 10 inches 
  • Publisher :  University of California Press; First Edition (May 30, 2014) 
  • Hardcover :  268 pages