27 Items in this Learning Collection
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object
Resource with 12 media

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Accession Number


Jean-Michel Basquiat

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
crayon on paper

24 in x 18 in (61 cm x 45.7 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Arthur Cohen in honor of Ben and Yetta Cohen

Label copy
Jean Michel Basquiat first gained attention as a graffiti artist in the late 1970s, signing his work SAMO© (short for “same old shit,” followed by the copyright symbol). Unlike the wild, colorful stylings of his contemporaries, the teenaged Basquiat tagged the walls and surfaces of New York City with such enigmatic messages as “SAMO© AS AN END TO MINDWASH RELIGION, NOWHERE POLITICS, AND BOGUS PHILOSOPHY” and “(SAMO©) A PIN DROPS LIKE A PUNGENT ODOR…” SAMO©’s writings were only occasionally accompanied by images, but they formed the foundation of Basquiat’s artistic practice, in which short fragments of text are combined with enigmatic renderings of everyday objects and symbols that function like pictographs. For Basquiat, language never performed the subsidiary role of caption or subtitle. He described the words he injected into his work as “brushstrokes,” suggesting an equivalence between textual and visual representation. In the three early drawings on view here, language is used elliptically, suggesting new relationships rather than explaining existing ones.

Subject matter
Expanding on his beginnings as a graffiti artist, this drawing represents several series of text-image pieces Basquiat made around this time.  These works present a simple image with a single word or short phrase.  The combination of the ladder and the word "Mother," makes the viewer ask about the connection between the two and reflect on the essence of these things in a context that defies everyday expectations.

Physical Description
This is a line drawing on white paper a ladder in the center, with the word "Mother" below it followed by the copyright symbol.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
line drawing

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

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African American
graffiti artists
line drawings (drawings)
modern and contemporary art

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& Author Notes

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