The Wall Street Journal wanders around the Brooklyn Museum’s latest Basquiat show from the artist’s notebooks recently revealed in the possession of collector Larry Warsh:
The notebooks—filled with observations, poetry fragments and wordplay, along with a handful of doodle-type sketches—serve as a skeleton key for some of Mr. Basquiat’s greatest works, showing how the artist absorbed language and re-contextualized it in his larger canvases. Subject matter ranges widely, from world history and popular culture to race, class and street life.
“In a sense, the whole of Basquiat’s oeuvre could be seen as a diary and a notebook: All of the works, including the actual notebook pages, are linked and have comparable status as independent artworks,” said Dieter Buchhart, guest curator of the exhibit. “For instance, there are different versions of ‘The Famous Negro Athletes’—he didn’t do just one—and in the notebook pages, you can see this.”
Mr. Warsh purchased the eight notebooks from Mr. Holman and fellow Gray member Nicholas Taylor, who discovered them in a drawer that their one-time roommate had left behind.
“I like collecting ephemera, from A to Z, that’s my style,” Mr. Warsh said of buying these black-and-white composition books in the ’80s. He then placed them in storage for more than 20 years—in bags, in his closet—before he considered putting them on public view.
“What drew me to these notebooks right away was that they were really his art, they’re very planned,” Mr. Warsh said.