The Easel

We’ve Been Looking at Jean-Michel Basquiat All Wrong. He Was a Conceptual Artist, Not an Expressionist—and Here’s Why

Early on, Basquiat attracted labels like ‘radiant child’ and ‘primitivist’, leading many to surmise his work expressed inner turmoil. His frenzied scrawls may resemble European expressionism but only by accident. Instead, the key to his complex work is text. Basquiat was “an artist of words and thoughts, [like conceptual artist Jenny Holzer], not of instincts and inchoate emotions.”