Back Story of a Closely Watched Career

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BasquiatBasquiat: The Unknown Notebooks
Edited by Dieter Buchhart and Tricia Laughlin Bloom
Skira Rizzoli Publications/Brooklyn Museum, 246 pages, $50.

 

THERE’S A UNIQUE POWER in the raw, organic evidence of an artist at work—unfinished canvases in a paint-spattered workspace, rough studies and drawings, and even the artist’s personal effects. One thinks of Francis Bacon’s famously chaotic London studio, meticulously catalogued and transported, piece by messy piece, to a Dublin museum after Bacon’s death. That quality of the artist at work comes through in Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks, the catalog for the exhibit of the same name that ran until August at the Brooklyn Museum. The notebooks offer a new perspective on the manic creativity of Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), who in his brief but meteoric career managed to produce 600 paintings, 1,500 drawings, assorted sculptures and mixed-media works, and the as-yet uncatalogued notebooks (roughly spanning 1980 to 1987).

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