In his essay, Rinder explains that,
“One doesn’t usually think of Dubuffet and Basquiat as contemporaries, yet there was a brief though important period at the very beginning of Basquiat’s career and at the end of Dubuffet’s when they were struggling with related representational issues and arriving at remarkably similar artistic solutions…. both Dubuffet and Basquiat were engaged in a methodical exploration of states of perception, knowing, and being. They used the means that best suited their purpose, arriving at remarkably similar artistic forms.”
Lawrence Rinder is a former Whitney Museum curator, and currently, he is the Dean of Graduate Studies at California College of the Arts, Los Angeles.
Jean Dubuffet (b. 1901 – d. 1985) was one of the most enigmatic, influential and prolific artists of the 20th century. A student of the Academie Julian in Paris in 1918, Dubuffet left school to pursue his own study of art and developed an appreciation for literature, language, and music. After fulfilling his military service in France, traveling, and pursuing an occupation in his family’s wine business, Dubuffet returned full-time to painting in 1942 and exhibited in American galleries and museums shortly thereafter.
Like many of his generation in Europe in the wake of World War II, Dubuffet sought artistic authenticity not within the confines of formal European tradition, but rather he looked to those on the margins of art: the socially isolated and, to a limited degree, the art of children. Influenced by those perspectives on art, Dubuffet incorporated similar visual language into his own work. Dubuffet referred to this painting style as “Art Brut”. He coined the term, a predecessor to outsider art, in the late 1940s.
Jean-Michel Basquiat (b. 1960 – d. 1988), whose career lasted less than a decade, emerged as one of the most prominent artists of his generation. Raised by a Haitian-American father and a Puerto Rican-American mother in Brooklyn, NY, Jean-Michel Basquiat was not formally trained as an artist. Instead, he gained notoriety in his early teens as a graffiti artist, and a few years later, in 1981, burst onto the art scene in a group show called Times Square Show. By his early twenties, Basquiat had developed a complex language of symbols and motifs that incorporated African-American themes and the influences of urban culture, sports heroes and music icons. His use of language to elaborate on these themes and enhance the composition of his paintings broke down the barriers between written and visual forms of expression.