“It is Basquiat’s overall inventiveness in marrying text and image – with words cut, pasted, recycled, scratched out and repeated – that speaks out to the innovation inherent in the hip hop moment of the late 1970s.”
– Franklin Sirmans, curator

Basquiat found inspiration in everything around him. He read constantly and often listened to music or watched television while painting. The artist immersed himself in high art and graffiti, jazz and rap, punk and pop culture, medical textbooks and comic books, and then channelled this complexity into sophisticated, layered work that anticipated today’s Internet culture.

Music was a huge influence. Sampling from a vast array of sources, Basquiat employed a poetic freestyle approach that embodied the spirit of hip hop, whose rise paralleled his own. Producing both densely collaged images and works featuring single, provocative phrases, Basquiat pieced together symbols and texts to realize an artistic vision as multifarious as his sources. As one critic describes, “Basquiat synthesized performance, music and visual art in a way that was then unprecedented and is now unparalleled.”