My Art Hero: Jean-Michel Basquiat

Thank you to my friend, the artist Roddy MacNeil. I don't remember meeting Roddy. We just sort of found each other in the union. Somehow amongst the spilt pints, naps in GFT and games of pool in 1st year at GSA, Roddy managed to tell me about Jean-Michel Basquiat. "He died at 27 and went out with Madonna, but you'll like his work as well." Or words to that effect.

Heavy book published after an exhibition, which I missed, in 2006.

Heavy book published after an exhibition, which I missed, in 2006.

Roddy wasn't wrong. 

Unashamedly, I went to the best High School for art education in Scotland. But at 17, in 2004, and new to Art School, I hadn't found anything like Basquiat before. I was already trying to steal bits of Gorky, Pollock and Twombly in my drawings and design work. But they were just painters.

Basquiat was an activist. A poet. A musician. A drug user. A celebrity courter. He scrawled epigrams about class systems and colonialism and consumerism across the walls of Lower East Side NYC. He was hip hop. He was street art. He was bad-ass. And 17 year old me found a total hero. 

His abstraction and figuration lit a wee fire in me. He completely changed how I drew, how I thought about my work, improved a willingness to rebel (which backfired often) and to this day he is just the coolest thing I've ever laid eyes on. After art school I got a tattoo of one of his most frequently used motifs. 

The Guggenheim in Bilbao is showing a pretty ambitious retrospective of his work 'Now's The Time' until 1 Nov 2015. Myself and Roddy fully intend to go.

Who's your hero and how did you find them?