Basquiat the Poet Comes to the Brooklyn Museum

April 3, 2015 | Liam Mathews

On April 3, the Brooklyn Museum is launching a new exhibition called Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks, the first-ever large exhibition of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s notebooks. The exhibition displays the contents of eight notebooks the late artist, used between 1980 and 1987. The black composition books are filled with Basquiat’s poetry, drawings, shopping lists and linguistic fragments that blur the line between verbal and visual.

Brooklyn Museum director Arnold Lehman’s foreword of the exhibition’s accompanying book says the exhibition “places the artist’s conceptually brilliant, little-known writings in context with his major drawings and paintings.”

Basquiat is best known as a visual artist, but these notebooks illuminate his skill as a trilingual poet who absorbed everything around him and hardly bothered to make distinctions between what he saw and what he read; he filtered everything through his eyes. “Whether he was writing short phrases or longer text-poems,” Lehman writes, “Basquiat used words like brushstrokes, capturing his observations and critical responses to 1980s culture and earlier history.”

Photo: Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

The exhibition runs through August 23 and includes some of Basquiat’s larger drawings and paintings in addition to the notebooks.

110 West 80 St-4R, NY, NY 10024 212 874 3879
Photo: Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

Basquiat had countless notebooks. Yale University has a controversial one that contains what is billed as Basquiat’s earliest known work, but it may be counterfeit.

Photo: Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

(Photo: Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat)