Basquiat: A Graphic Novel

Laurence King. May 2019. 128p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781786274151.
Gr 10 Up–Parisi offers a vibrant biography of iconic New York artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, briefly touching on his childhood and examining how he struggled, achieved fame, and made a lasting legacy in the art world. Using nonlinear storytelling and relying on the perspectives of family members, close friends, and the artist himself, Parisi begins with Basquiat’s untimely death, then springs forward to explore his work as part of the legendary graffiti art duo SAMO. This whirlwind art history lesson acknowledges the impact of other movements and famous artists with whom Basquiat came in contact while he was hosted in galleries across Europe and Manhattan as his fame grew. His relationships with other artists, gallery owners, and romantic partners highlight his aesthetic influences and hint that to truly understand the artist’s persona, readers must draw their own conclusions. Parisi carefully illustrates the chaotic environment of New York in the 1970s and 1980s—the colors, sights, and sounds of millions of people, which blur together much like Basquiat’s neo-expressionist paintings. Basquiat’s tragic demise made his catapult to stardom all the more fleeting and all the more fascinating.
VERDICT A mesmerizing account of a creative phenomenon.

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