"I saw the Big Sun"
Anna Tanaka Murakami, survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing in an interview with T. Saylor, Minnesota's Greatest Generation Oral History Project, 2003).
The visual lexicon of Jean-Michel Basquiat describes a broad language rooted in multi-dimensional awareness of art history and popular culture. Basquiat frequently portrays heroes of the struggle for African-American civil rights, as well as role models of great accomplishment including jazz musicians and sports figures. These paintings owe an obvious debt to Abstract Expressionism. It is less obvious that Basquiat's disjointed narrative stylistically relates to the cut-up writings of William Burroughs and John Giorno who lived in the Bunker on the Bowery just a short distance from Basquiat's studio.
In addition to these sources, Jean-Michel Basquiat drew from a variety of scientific reference books. These ranged from Leonardo di Vinci's Codex to anatomy books to texts on the nature of atomic structure. Basquiat appears to have been fascinated by the parallel between the atomic structure (the paths of various electrons orbiting the nucleus) of the element radium, and the structure of our solar system wherein our planets orbit the sun. Radium is the element Einstein referred to in his early postulates as to the nature of splitting atoms to produce energy. These early experiments eventually led to the horrifying reality of nuclear fission bombs, the advent of which (Hiroshima) is clearly referenced in the present painting in vivid color.