How many times have you heard a celebrities dirty laundry screeched from a bitter ex or estranged spouse, with the dark secrets of their tumultuous relationship hollered through a tacky primary-colour stricken magazine? The deserted lovers endeavour to confirm their place on Celebrity Big Brother & GMTV is achieved with a desperate photoshoot & starving vocabulary, certifying their Z-list status. A far cry from the Hello magazine sobs; Widow Basquiat ,by Jennifer Clement, bellows a memoir of a passionate union between artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat & his ‘widow’ Suzanne Mallouk; a union blooming amongst the weeds of addiction, whose angry thorns contorts and disfigures their love.
Clement paints a myriad of haunting “fly on the wall” verses, thick with both poetic flare & gritty reality. Fleshing out the life of the renowned Brooklyn-born artist through his muse’s experience, to create this tragic sculpture.
The book follows Basquiat’s journey from graffiti artist – selling pieces on the street, to critical acclaim – perishing under the weight of fame. Fusing poetry, drawing & historical information, Jean used his aggressive style to vocalise his social commentary – observing wealth vs poverty, integration vs segregation & attacking systems of power & racism. Sinewing through Basquiat’s life is Suzanne, his lifeblood, A woman searching to find her own song within the echoes of Studio 54, scrambling to find herself in the shadows of her toxic relationship with Basquiat & his fame.
The book constructs a visual for the world underneath the bright lights of New York & glamour of Studio 54. Revealing the political & social static which fuelled the storm of artistic expression in the 70’s & 80’s. A tide which would propel Basquiat into notoriety, but capsize him into its perilous waters. A story we’ve heard far too often, but not so beautifully told. Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement.
If you are a fan of Basquiat’s work or would like to learn more; check out his upcoming exhibition at the Barbican.
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