EYE CANDY

A Teenage Jean-Michel Basquiat As You’ve Never Seen Him

1 Basquiat in apt 1981.jpg

Long before he met Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat had another partner in crime: Alexis Adler, his girlfriend and roommate in a railroad apartment on New York’s E. 12th Street that served as a breeding ground for the artist’s pre-SAMO experimentations. Much like Paige Powell, a later girlfriend who captured the artist in the buff, Adler documented their time together, but with a certain innocence: Basquiat—whom she’d met shortly after he was kicked out of school for “pie-ing” the principal, and with a penchant for practicing his early designs on the floors and walls and his clarinet in the bathroom—was just 18 then. “Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979–1980,” a new exhibition on view at the MCA Denver until May, documents their time together in that sixth-floor walk-up, as well as the rest of Basquiat’s late ’70s and early ’80s career, which was still finding its stride—with a little help from the Silly Putty he’d stick on his face, an early foray into performance. Take a look back at a more innocent time for the late artist, when rent was only $80 a month, here.

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Alexis Adler

“Basquiat in the apartment,” 1981.

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Alexis Adler

“Basquiat in the apartment,” 1981.

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Alexis Adler

“Basquiat in the apartment,” 1981.

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Alexis Adler

“Basquiat performing in the apartment,” c. 1979–1980.

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Alexis Adler

“Basquiat performing in the apartment,” c. 1979–1980.

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Alexis Adler

“Basquiat performing in the apartment,” c. 1979–1980.

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Alexis Adler

“Basquiat performing in the apartment,” c. 1979–1980.

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Alexis Adler

“Basquiat performing in the apartment,” c. 1979–1980.

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Alexis Adler

“Basquiat performing in the apartment,” c. 1979–1980.

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Alexis Adler

“Basquiat performing in the apartment,” c. 1979–1980.

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Alexis Adler

“Basquiat performing in the apartment,” c. 1979–1980.

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Alexis Adler

“Basquiat performing in the apartment,” c. 1979–1980.