Jean-Michel Basquiat x Ed Steinberg
"One afternoon in 1980, the buzzer rang at my Gramercy Park loft. I looked down the stairs and saw someone I didn’t know ringing the bell, shouting that he was here for ’the video’. I had no idea what he was referring to but I buzzed him in anyway. It was Jean-Michel Basquiat. A few moments later, someone rang the buzzer and it was actor Danny Rosen (Stranger Than Paradise, Downtown 81) followed by Wayne Clifford a few minutes later.
Apparently the brother-in-law of video artist Sholom Gorewitz whom I had recently met, asked these guys to show up at my loft and make a video. That’s what they told me and I thought, ’sure, why not?!' I already had a large roll of seamless photography paper ready to go so I set my camera with my darkroom timer on the floor so they could see the time. I gave them five minutes for each of three segments to perform, but I had absolutely no idea what they were going to do. Apparently, neither did they.
Earlier that week, Jean-Michel had bought one of the first recording Walkmans. He had scoured the city for abstract sounds that seemed to delight him. Wayne Clifford acted as the ‘ringmaster’ and off they went improvising the three segments. My niece, who was 7 or 8 at the time, started throwing pieces of Body Buddies cereal at them. They laughed and told her to throw more. Afterwards, Jean-Michel became a regular, visiting my loft a few times a week - always unannounced and always cheerful, looking for respite from the crazy street life happening in Ed Koch’s New York. He would tell me about his run-ins with the New York art scene and draw on whatever was lying around.
A few months later, I called him to create background images for The Colors, produced by Blondie drummer and neighbor Clem Burke. He was so late, I had to call other graffiti artists Futura 2000 and Pink Lady to fill in. When Jean-Michel finally showed up, the other artists had already begun, so he was rather pissed off. After a while, he started spray painting and created canvases full of very compressed and strange images. I wish I still had them!"