Get a rare glimpse into the mind of Jean-Michel Basquiat at the High Museum

The exhibit runs through May 29
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Jean-Michel Basquiat High Museum of Art Atlanta
Jean-Michel Basquiat in his New York studio in 1987.

Tseng Kwong Chi (Chinese-Canadian-American, born Hong Kong, 1950–1990). Jean-Michel Basquiat in his Great Jones Street studio, New York, 1987. Chromogenic development print, 50 x 50 in. (127 x 127 cm). Muna Tseng Dance Projects, New York & Eric Firestone Gallery, East Hampton, New York. © 1987 Muna Tseng Dance Projects, Inc. New York.

Although he died at just 27 of a heroin overdose in 1988, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat made an outsized impact. The self-taught graffitist and painter was one of the first black artists to dominate the mainstream art world in the 1980s, according to Michael Rooks, managing curator of the High Museum’s current exhibition, which offers a rare glimpse into the artist’s mind. Through May 29, visitors can peruse 160 pages from rarely seen private notebooks inscribed with sketches, poetry, lists, and scribbles, which reveal much about Basquiat’s inspirations and process. (Thirty related paintings and other artworks are also on display.) “Language is the main route into his work,” says Rooks, who adds that the notebooks show “the importance of language in his studio practice and career.”

Jean-Michel Basquiat High Museum of Art Atlanta

Art credits: From left to right: Jean-Michel Basquiat (American, 1960–1988). Al Jolson, 1981. Oil stick on paper, 24 x 18 in. (61 x 45.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Estelle Schwartz, 87.47. © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, all rights reserved. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum. Untitled Notebook (front cover), 1980–1981. Mixed media on board, 9 5/8 x 7 5/8 x 1/4 in. (24.4 x 19.4 x .6 cm). Collection of Larry Warsh. © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, all rights reserved. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum. Untitled Notebook Page, 1980–1981. Wax crayon on ruled notebook paper, 9 5/8 x 7 5/8 in. (24.5 x 19.4 cm). Collection of Larry Warsh. © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, all rights reserved. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum. Untitled (Ink Drawing), 1981. Sumi ink on paper, 12 x 9 in. (30.5 x 22.9 cm). Private collection. © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, all rights reserved. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Photo: Gavin Ashworth.

This article originally appeared in our May 2016 issue.

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