I first became aware of Jean-Michel Basquiat through a film - Basquiat. Roaming around Blockbuster at least 10 years ago, I rented the movie* simply because of the artwork on the VHS box. I was blown away by the amazing work of this young man, originally a graffiti street artist, and have been a huge fan ever since.
The following write-up about Basquiat was done preceding a 2005 show of his works at MOCA in Los Angeles.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, photo by William Coupon
"The story of Basquiat is one we're all too familiar with when it comes to any visionary's overnight rise to fame. They often fall as fast.
Born on December 22, 1960, to a Haitian-American father and a Puerto Rican-American mother, Jean-Michel Basquiat was raised in Brooklyn. Although active for just one decade, he is considered one of the best-known artists of his generation and received unprecedented international recognition. When still in his teens, Basquiat first gained notoriety among New Yorkers for the cryptic graffiti poetry he sprayed on the walls of Lower Manhattan under the pseudonym SAMO. In 1981, when he was 20 years old, Basquiat burst upon the art scene under his own name with an original body of work that quickly developed into a complex and highly diverse, mature style, marked by innovation, sophistication, skill, and a stirring emotional depth. By the age of 21, he had already enjoyed five important one-person exhibitions and been included in the prestigious Documenta 7 in Kassel, Germany. Basquiat died of a drug overdose in 1988 at the age of 27."
*The film also covers the interaction between Basquiat and Andy Warhol. I'm fairly certain it is still available. See it if you can.