If you consider yourself a real fan of Jean-Michel Basquiat (test your knowledge here), then you probably know that SAMO© was the graffiti tag and movement that he started back in the mid-to-late '70s, but not everyone knows that he wasn't alone. Basquiat's friend and collaborator Al Diaz (a.k.a. Bomb-One) is credited as a co-founder of the movement, and the "first generation New York subway graffiti artist" is making a comeback. Diaz had a falling out with the art world for a long while, but according to Al Jazeera, he is "looking to reclaim his legacy" with a new body of work.
"I felt uncomfortable in that world," says Diaz of Basquiat's fame and the point where the two parted ways artistically in 1979. "The art world was this elitist, white and male, educated—it was really fake." Diaz focused more on making musical instruments and playing in Jazz bands, and he also rapped on the Rammellzee record that Basquiat produced. He started doing more drugs, and by 1991 Diaz told Al Jazeera that he had become a "full blown junkie."
Seeing himself in the Basquiat documentary Radiant Child prompted the artist to change his life. "It freaked me out that I looked so horrible and that I was in this film and apparently had some kind of importance in all this. It struck a chord because maybe a month later I got clean and have been clean ever since." Getting clean resulted in a shift back to art for Diaz, including collaborations with Jilly Ballistic and participation in group shows like the very popular "21st Precinct Graffiti Show" last summer.
Diaz is all about moving forward and says that he avoids "feeding people their ‘So what was it like’ shit," in terms of knowing Basquiat and his work as a graffiti artist. "I don’t want to talk about what it was like...For me it’s just not enough. So ‘What are you doing now?’ is the question." To see more of what Al Diaz is doing now, check out his website, Al-Diaz.com.
[via Al Jazeera]