The following two drawings by Jean Michel Basquiat were executed during one of the most remarkable years for the young artist, the year of transition between the street and the studio. In early 1981, he was mainly painting on windows, doors, scraps of metal and wood--anything readily (and often illegally) available to make his mark. By the end of 1981, he was working in a studio in the basement of legendary gallerist Annina Nosei, working on canvas and paper. This marked his transition from influential street artist to a world renowned painter.
Like so many extraordinary artists, Jean-Michel Basquiat surrounded himself with other extraordinary artists, individuals and groups of people in the industry. The present work on paper depicts the legendary polysexual sybarite of the East Village scene, Stephen Lack. Lack himself was a star in the Gracie Mansion Gallery, when Jean- Michel Basquiat was his best friend. Hair and mouth ablaze and distorted and smoking a cigarette, the figure could be read as a projection of the artist's own fears, anxieties and rebellious rage at this particularly critical moment in his career. Similarly today, Lack's own work combines a sense of 1950s nostalgia heavy with anxiety.
"Jean-Michel lived a wild life, tasting all the extremes on his way up the art mountaintop of the eighties. By the time of his death in 1988, at the age of twenty-seven, he had seen both sides of the mirror of fame. The words which brought him the initial attention of the publicare full of the same spirit and magic combination(s) of images that first startled New York when they were found scrawled across the walls and sidewalks of the city in the late 1970s...Through his special language and sensitive line quality you can taste his street reaction to the lies of the corporations, see and feel the isolation of the individual and sense the artist's distance of separation..."
(S. Lack, Jean Michel Basquiat, The Notebooks, Larry Warsh, ed., New York, 1993, dust jacket).