Changing the Game Since 11.11.11

Basquiat's "Defacement": Untold Story

An exploration of a formative chapter in Basquiat’s brief career through the lens of his identity and the role of cultural activism in New York City during the early years of the 1980s Jean-Michel Basquiat painted Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart) in 1983 to commemorate the death of a young, black artist who died from injuries sustained while in police custody after being arrested for allegedly tagging a New York City subway station.

Published to accompany a focused exhibition of Basquiat’s response to anti-black racism and police brutality, this catalogue explores a chapter in the artist’s career through both the lens of his identity and the Lower East Side as a nexus of activism in the early 1980s. With an introduction by Chaédria LaBouvier, Nancy Spector, and Joan Young, and an essay by Johanna F. Almiron are supplemented by commentary from artists, activists, and other cultural figures who were part of this episode in the city’s history, which invokes today’s urgent conversations about state-sanctioned racism.

Ephemera related to Stewart’s death, including newspaper clippings and protest posters, and samples of artwork from Stewart’s estate are also featured along with paintings and prints made by other artists from Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, David Hammons, in response to Stewart’s death.


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