Like legions of other Black and Latinx New Yorkers, Jean-Michel Basquiat channeled his artistic genius and angst into graffiti well before the city’s art elite paid any attention. Several of his contemporaries explore the late artist’s pre-fame work—and the cultural and political landscape that influenced it—in “Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat.”
The documentary, whose trailer premiered online yesterday (April 18), highlights Basquiat’s growth in the context of New York City’s struggles with immense poverty, violence and racial injustice in the late 1970s. Interviewees like Lee Quiñones and Fab Five Freddy discuss how Basquiat used the city as his canvas, developing his skills creating graffiti on building walls and subways as fictional religious trickster SAMO.
The art world eventually celebrated his talent when it embraced hip hop and graffiti as the next great artistic movements. Basquiat earned a reputation as an innovator whose works confronted racism and oppression. He died from a heroin overdose at age 27; the purchase of his painting “Untitled” broke art auction records when it sold for $110.5 million 19 years after his death.
“Boom For Real” opens in theaters on May 11.