Fullerton Museum Center recently hosted the Opening Reception for Jean-Michel Basquiat: An Intimate Portrait as told through the lens of Nicholas Taylor. It’s an exploration of the artist as a person, who incidentally became one of the most prolific painters of the past century.

Photographer Nicholas Taylor, then known as Nick, was a member of Gray, a pre-punk band that included Basquiat. They played in the Mudd Club and various downtown Manhattan venues from the late 1970s and early 1980s.

“We were trying to be incomplete, abrasive, oddly beautiful” said Basquiat of his band, a phrase that could be applied to his later approach to his artwork.


The exhibit of Taylor’s black-and-white images chronicles those heady years. They are some of the very few photos to capture Basquiat in his short-Mohawk punk phase. This was before he became known as an artist, when he was still doing the SAMO graffiti, selling handmade postcards and painted clothing on the street, and a member of Gray.

The accompanying text panels, written by Taylor, contextualize the historical significance of Basquiat – his eccentric behavior, obsessive hunger for fame and respect – in the vacuous art world of New York City in the 1980s.

“Jean-Michel and I hit it off right away, even though he was a few years younger than me,” said Taylor. “An average night for us consisted of stealing beers off tables at the clubs. Then we would get into the subway and he would discreetly pull out a marker and start doing his graffiti thing. It’s like he had a twitch and had to be drawing all the time.”

Fullerton Museum Center commissioned Jouvon Michael Kingsby, known in the Los Angeles and Tustin underground as Jovi, to render a magnificient Basquiat-inspired mural to complement their exhibit. An acclaimed artist in his own right, Jovi has shown many of his solo pieces in local galleries as well as under the art collective called ‘X is the Weapon’. His art runs through several styles, from realism to abstract. He is most known for the mural he painted on the walls of Saddam Hussein’s bunker in Baghdad while on guard duty when he was deployed in Iran.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: An Intimate Portrait
Open to the public through September 29, 2013

Fullerton Museum Center
301 N. Pomona Avenue


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