b. 1960, New York, New York
Jean-Michel Basquiat was an influential American artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, and first achieved fame as part of SAMO (“Same Old Shit”), an informal graffiti duo who wrote enigmatic epigrams in the cultural hotbed of the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the late 1970s, where rap, punk, and street art coalesced into early hip-hop music culture. Basquiat’s art focused on “suggestive dichotomies”, such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience, and he often used social commentary in his paintings as a tool for introspection and for identifying with his experiences in the black community of his time, as well as attacks on power structures and systems of racism. He died of a heroin overdose at his art studio at the age of 27.