In the beginning of 1983, Jean Michel Basquiat paints In Italian, a portrait of his assistant Stephen Torton. The painting combines different references and languages.
Italy and Italians played a major role in the artist career. The Italian artist Sandro Chia was an early advocate for Basquiat’s work, and introduced him to an Italian art dealer: Annina Nosei who will help launch his career. Basquiat later became friendly with artist Francesco Clemente with whom he collaborated. Basquiat comment is based on his quote “I cross out words so you will see them more; the fact that they are obscured makes you want to read them”.
Keith Haring who was frequently in Europe, loved Italy in particular and said “if there is an heaven, I hope this is what it’s like”.
Later that year Basquiat will travel to Italy with Andy Warhol and meet Haring. The painting was the object of an exchange between Basquiat and Warhol.
Sources: Jean-Michel Basquiat: 80 % Anger and 20 % Mystery, John Seed, huffpost
Basquiat : a quick killing in art, Hoban, Phoebe, 1998
Keith Haring journals
Jean Michel crossed words, 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 24" x 18" (61 x 46 cm)