Basquiat inspired Miami artists to let loose

Jean-Michel Basquiat may have been a New Yorker, but he was a big deal to a whole lot of Miami artists. With the Peréz Art Museum Miami (PAMM) landing the first major exhibition ever of his notebooks (which we took a tour of here), we wanted to hear how the man known for getting artists to lose control of their paintbrush shook up our local artists as well.

“Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks” opens on Aug. 11. Get all the info on the opening celebration here.

Benji Cospolite

How has Basquiat influenced you?

I was young when I saw a picture of Basquiat in his studio and I just loved the way he expressed himself, I loved it so much it made me want to start to paint. Just looking at every piece he did, I could see exactly what he was trying to explain. He made me realize that when and if I would paint, I should express what was going on in my life around me. That there was supposed to be something behind my art, a story, a feeling. That I should accept and love what I do, and not try to please others with what I know they will like.


How has your art been a part of Miami?

I paint because I love to paint. That being said, I try to stay away from the more commercial side of art these days. I keep it local. I have done open houses, community events like Fancy Nasty at the last Art Basel, the Haitian Cultural Center, and the Meeting House.

Art becomes different when it’s at another gallery, people head to the bar and then after a couple of drinks walk around to glance at the art. It’s more of a party than anything else. There’s no understanding or enjoyment in the art. After the bar closes its to the next gallery, and then the next.

Stuart Sheldon

How has Basquiat influenced you?

Basquiat had one of the most raw stream of consciousness. It was unfiltered but yet had this super intellectual sense of order and those two things created such tension for me. If you could do both things at once and keep it… You get to be Basquiat.  I mean, I’ve stood in front of his paintings for the last 25 years in awe, looking at them for long periods of time. He was really big for me.

A lot of symbols, a lot of random text, a lot of goofy childlike drawings of faces and animals. I’ve used original poetry that I scratch into wet paint. His use of cartoonish drawings and random text is organically what my work is about as well. It’s not derivative but it is definitely related.

How has your art been a part of Miami?

My art got really big in Miami… Physically. Fancy Nasty was definitely a combination of what I’ve done in Miami and I believe it fortified my place here. The fact that I got to produce this exhibition in an international place was amazing to me. The next show I’m producing is for October, at Macaya gallery. [It’s] gonna be more on political justice. I hope it takes my work to a higher level.

Luis Maquilon

How has Basquiat influenced you?

What I loved about him was that he was an artist who painted to what was going on around him. Through emotion and feeling, he always let people know exactly what state of mind he was at with his art. When I was introduced to him, he was spreading his work out to the world through graffiti, and that was what I was doing at the time myself. The guy knew who he was, but he understood that he could stand for the hip hop and punk rock scene at the time. His work spoke for everyone.

How has your art been a part of Miami?

I’m born in New York but Miami is what I am. From the Overtown streets to the smell of Colada in Little Havana. I was raised in Miami, I’m Cuban, and my culture is based here. I’ve seen Miami change drastically, everything is growing and through time my style has also evolved with the city. I have my studio in my house and I’ve sold most of my work on my front porch to people I know in the city. My work has spread through word of mouth or through friends in my graffiti background. I would say my work is balance of organization and chaos… complicated comfort.

Eric “Bee16” Mckinney

How did Basquiat influence your work? 

I feel like he had this demeanor to where he knew people wouldn’t understand his work, but…  knew it would make a lot of noise regardless, good or bad work. That started to grow on me and I felt that and portrayed it that way. I grew infatuated with going against how certain art is said to be. I began to break standards and make people feel. I sometimes like when people are confused or don’t understand my work, and that attitude partially grew from studying Basquiat.

How has your art been a part of Miami?

Pop culture and street art is where my work meets Miami. When I roam Miami, I get an influence by the business and congestion of the city. That results in some of my pieces containing a whole lot to look at, layers, colors, and street art style. If you know Miami or are from there you know that working with what you got is a big thing in this city. A lot of my work involved my using scraps of this and that, hands when brushes were absent, other mediums when paint was absent. Making a piece that looks like it was found in a downtown alley. My art has been in multiple showcases in downtown and free art giveaways on the streets of Wynwood.

Jenny Perez

How has Basquiat influenced you?

I remember when I first discovered him, I had realized he was a Caribbean American and a fearless New Yorker at heart. Just knowing his background and  where he came from was a huge influence, us both coming from the island. But when I saw his work, I saw how incredibly spontaneous he was with creating. I remember when I first started painting, I felt like I needed to have all this control, but spontaneity is very liberating and seeing him really allowed to me to explore that side of me as an artist.

How has your art been a part of Miami?

Being that I’m born and raised in Miami, it’s always been a part of it. Like, I’m in my studio and it’s such an intimate process and it feels like I’m in my own little world. But then I share my work with other people, and I realize that I’m not just an artist, but I’m a Miami artist and that people regard me and consider me for events and things of that nature. I started painting when I was 19, and ever since I decided to pick up a paintbrush the locals supported me. Being an artist and being a part of the creation of an art community in itself was beautiful and incredibly fulfilling and it allowed me to keep going.