Kristopher Cheeves

Kristopher Cheeves

Siena Heights University

Art & Art History


Mentor: Dr. Paul Verrette, Professor Emeritus of Music

Jean Michel Basquiat and the Pantheon of Rhythm

This research regards the connection between the artwork of Jean Michel Basquiat and jazz music, specifically Bebop. I will compare his expressionistic process and the improvisation inherent in bebop. This will be codified by using direct parallels between his improvisational usage of images and word forms over borrowed compositional layouts of old masterpieces and the borrowed chord structures of jazz standards laid over with the frenetic improvisation inherent in Bebop music.

This is accomplished through a literature review of articles, books, references pertaining to Basquiat's process, as well as a concise visual analysis of his works from 1982- 1986 and personal interviews with his colleagues and compatriots.

This will draw parallels with the Jazz aesthetic interpretation of African-American poetry, but this technique proves to bridge this connection in the visual art of Jean-Michel Basquiat and the jazz music he commonly listened to. It is my assertion that jazz music and music in general had a profound impact on many of the paintings of Jean Michel Basquiat in addition to his stated theme of “loyalty heroism and the streets. The purpose is in drawing a direct link between forms expressed in music and the forms expressed in the paintings of Basquiat. The finding stating that to study the enigmatic language of Basquiats' work one must grasp the rhythmic structures and tonal arrangement in the music that accompanied him in work.

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