‘Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child’ by Tamra Davis is a documentary film about one of my favourite artists. Ever. The film is centred around an 1986 interview Tamra Davis did with Basquiat. Two years later he was dead of a heroin overdose. Twenty years later Davis unearthed her footage and turned it into the feature-length ‘Radiant Child’.
The title of the film comes from a 1981 Artforum article by poet and critic René Ricard who helped take Basquiat’s work from the streets to the galleries. Ricard credits Basquiat and his contemporary Keith Haring with raising graffiti ‘above the vernacular’ and compares them both to Karl Marx:
Das Kapital was written by one man. This is no graffito, this is no train, this is a Jean-Michel Basquiat. This is a Keith Haring.
A bit much maybe. Okay definitely nonetheless Basquiat made a sizeable impression on everyone that came across him. Haring was to say about Basquiat that:
he disrupted the politics of the art world and insisted that if he had to play their games, he would make the rules. His images entered the dreams and museums of the exploiters, and the world would never be the same.
What’s wonderful about the film is that it not only documents the artist but also the vibrant New York scene that nurtured and embraced him. The soundtrack to the film is packed with music from Davis’ husband Mike D and bandmate Adam Horowitz from the Beastie Boys as well as interviews with Thurston Moore, Julian Schnabel, Fab 5 Freddy and everyone else that was making a noise during the late 70s 80s in New York.
And yes its all about Basquiat, and yes everyone is simpering over him, loved his work but so do I. And I love this film, its not only about the artist, its about one of the most vibrant cities on earth in one of its most creative moments.
Treasure it. Go look at his work.
[ED NOTE: unfortunately YOUTUBE is increasingly being hit for copyright infringements so you can now only see the trailer - you'll have to buy the DVD if you want to see it. I did see it and it's wonderful]
Via Open Culture
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