Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat

Photo courtesy: https://www.ourtimepress.com/bottled/
Photo courtesy: http://www.ourtimepress.com/bottled/

This is the story of how anarchy, community, and creativity gave birth to Basquiat. Now playing at The State.

At age 17, Jean-Michel Basquiat found himself at the epicenter of an art movement that would become one of the most important of the twentieth century. Director Sara Driver was also a part of that close-knit community of artists. While visiting her friend Alexis Adler (a close friend of Basquiat’s in the late 70’s) she discovered Alexis’ archive of Jean-Michel’s early work: poetry, sketches, and photographs that would inform all of the seminal artist’s later work, and her inspiration for Boom For Real, a documentary that focuses on painter Basquiat’s pre-fame years.

In 1978, the city of New York was bankrupt. Living downtown cost almost nothing. East Village landlords started setting their buildings on fire to collect insurance money; the murder rate was at an all time high; and the AIDS epidemic was not yet identified. This environment gave birth to a community of artists with almost unlimited self-expression. Featuring interviews with artists who were a part of that scene, we get an up-close look at the time, place, and people that shaped Basquiat

“I don’t think about my work while I’m painting, I try to think about life.” — Basquiat

Some reviewers complained that there isn’t anything in this film about Jean-Michel’s biological family. In spite of its title, this isn’t a literal biography of his teenage years. It’s about Basquiat converging with this implosion of bold, rebellious, DIY artistic expression, including the birth of hip-hop, happening in downtown New York City. Jean-Michel knew instinctively that it was an inspired, combustible, fleeting time, and his sense of immediacy to take it in and get it all down through his work is insightfully conveyed.

“ I wanted him to be like a ghost, a reverberating, very important memory.” – Sara Driver, director

The film’s ability to show Basquiat’s complexity is another of its virtues. He was incredibly sophisticated in his ability to recognize and internalize great art, but he also had a child-like innocence and naiveté to his personality and in the way he took in everything he saw, repurposing it in his own distinct voice. Seeing this process, as up close as one possibly could without actually being there, captures the essence of inspiration itself.

When asked why she wanted to make this film, Driver’s response was: “I made this film for the kids. I want young people to break out of the corporate system, form their own communities, get off their iPhones, start making art, and finding their art the way we did. That (downtown) movement was as rich as Café Society in the 1930’s. I feel computer culture separates us from our tribes, our storytelling – which is what we need in order to be human and create great art.”

Boom for real was a catchphrase Basquiat said when something really wowed him. It’s impossible to believe that anyone seeing this film won’t walk away feeling inspired; the film is a boom, for real.

Trending

Domino’s Farms Aids Ann Arbor’s Need for Office Space

Domino’s Pizza and Arbor Research are both launching new office building projects at Domino’s Farms. Domino’s Pizza is creating a 33,000-square-foot building on the north side of Domino’s Farms, expanding to their current space. Arbor Research is creating a new 49,500-square-foot headquarters building on the east side of Domino’s Farms. Both buildings should be completed

A Physician’s Perspective on Legalized Cannabis

On Tuesday, November 6th, Michigan became the 10th state to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Ten years ago, we had become the 13th state to legalize Cannabis for medical use. I voted for the medical cannabis law years ago because, in my view, cannabis is not a dangerous product, and too many people were being imprisoned for its use. At that time, however, I did not subscribe to the argument that there were legitimate medical uses for cannabis. How things have changed.

Tiny Expo at Ann Arbor District Library—A Curated Holiday Gift Fair with Flair

The Tiny Expo is a gem of an indie arts and crafts fair for vendors with original and unexpected products that make wonderful gifts but may not be an obvious fit for Ann Arbor’s mainstream art fairs. Shoppers who crave artistic, high quality products with diverse price points will find a rich variety of unique, handmade products to choose from.

New Tenants in Downtown Ypsilanti

Formerly long-vacant buildings in Downtown Ypsilanti are experiencing revitalization as small businesses and nonprofits are rapidly filling up spaces. Michigan Advocacy Program (MAP), a nonprofit organization that, “provides access to the justice systems for those that need it most,” recently purchased the Smith Furniture building at 15 S Washington Street which became their headquarters. Decode