Author(s): Jeffrey Deitch
In 1981 Jean-Michel Basquiat made the momentous transition from the street to the studio. He had attracted considerable attention with his Times Square Show the summer before, and reinforced that nascent notoriety with a wall of phenomenal works in Diego Cortez's New York/New Wave at P.S. 1, which opened the following winter. A few months later, the dealer Annina Nosei offered Basquiat an independent space in which to prepare work for her September group show, Public Address. He was only 20. Between the world of spray-painted poetry and what critic Peter Schjeldahl called "New York big-painting aesthetics" lies a fantastic coming-of-age: Jean-Michel Basquiat: 1981: The Studio of the Street includes paintings and drawings on everything from note cards to sheet metal to a leather jacket and conventional canvas. In them, as throughout his career, Basquiat married an exuberant spontaneity and art-brut sensibility with a firm command of not only art materials but art history. He would go on to define the 80s Neo-Expressionist idiom, and to remain its most compelling representative. The Studio of the Street examines this charged point of contact in works that show the artist's progression from text to text-and-image, from found materials to traditional canvasses, and from pure drawing to his uniquely evocative hybrid of drawing and painting.