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Jean-Michel Basquiat was a highly visible presence in the New York avant-garde art scene of the 1980s. Having made a name for himself as a graffiti artist using the tag SAMO—short for "same old shit"—Basquiat developed into an important Neo-Expressionist painter. His work often explored political themes such as racial conflict and economic oppression. Although critics often chafed at his "dramatic and bristly displays of superstardom," ARTnews wrote at the time of his death that "Basquiat's talent surpassed his notoriety as the rebellious young artist raging against the commercializing forces of society." In 1982 Basquiat sat for his portrait in the studio of famed Harlem photographer James VanDerZee, who was then ninety-six. After this sitting, Basquiat painted VanDerZee's portrait.

James VanDerZee (1886–1983)
Gelatin silver print, 1982
Published January 1989
Donna Mussenden VanDerZee
©Donna Mussenden VanDerZee
(Printable page)

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