The Racial Disparities and Influences on Art and Social Culture Through the Work of Jean-Michel Basquiat
Jean-Michel Basquiat was a prominent neo-expressionist artist within the 1970s until his early death in 1988. His work brought the culture of graffiti and street art into fine art galleries and elite museums around the world building opportunities for black and other minority artists that would follow him in years to come. Although Basquiat did not see himself as an activist, this paper argues that messages in his art attacked cultural appropriations by mainstream society as well as expressed the struggles of black and Latino communities. Specifically, works entitled, “Defacement (Death of Michael Stewart)” (1983) and “Irony of a Negro Policeman” (1981) addressed the issues of racial and social inequality for these same groups. By looking at artists such as Raymond Pettibon in the twenty-first century, viewers are able to find a similar message between the content of both artists allowing today’s minority youth groups to view both in a sense of relatability when dealing with racialization within society. Basquiat’s work against laws and police practices of the 1980s, such as racial profiling and “stop and frisk,” one finds that his art has become even more relevant today.