Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979-1980

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In 1979 a young Jean-Michel Basquiat was tagging Lower Manhattan and roaming the nightclubs and bars of the East Village. When he moved into a sixth-floor walkup on East 12th Street with Alexis Adler, a young scientist and amateur photographer, the apartment became a site of artistic experimentation: Basquiat painted every surface, made sculpture from discarded objects dragged in from the street, filled notebook pages, and staged performances, all captured by Adler’s camera and preserved in her archive.

Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979-1980 observes a period in the artistic life of Jean-Michel Basquiat as he emerged as a pioneering and virtuosic painter and performer. Published in conjunction with the MCA Denver exhibition of the same title, this book tells the story of what unfolded in apartment F8 and how the creative impulses evident in Basquiat’s home spilled into the streets of the neighborhood and vice versa.

Basquiat Before Basquiat features Adler’s photographs, as well as an essay by MCA Denver curator Nora Burnett Abrams and critical texts and personal remembrances by friends of the artist, including Adler, Luc Sante, Darryl Pinckney, Sara Driver, jennifer jazz, Malu Halasa, Michael Holman, Bud Kliment, Sur Rodney Sur, and Felice Rosser. The book provides an intimate glimpse into the creative life of the artist at a moment that incontrovertibly shaped his artistic practice.