BASQUIAT AND DIAZ
by: JC RODRIGUEZ
"SAMO©,,,4 THE SO-CALLED
The late 70s in New York City, a city that was undergoing a transformation fueled by economic woes and widespread crime. Cuts in law enforcement and unemployment at 10% added to the gritier form of New York that has long been gone. During this time, the spread of graffiti had moved from the Bronx to the glossier Manhattan. It was at this time that Jean-Michel Basquiat and his high school friend, Al Diaz, created an alter ego, SAMO©.
“SAMO©,,, AS AN END TO THE 9 TO 5 “I WENT TO COLLEGE” “NOT 2-NITE HONEY”,,,BLUZ’,,,THINK,,,”
“SAMO©,,, 4 THE SO-CALLED AVANT-GARDE”
Becoming friends in High School, the pair decided to start a newspaper called Basement Blues Press. Basquiat was working on an article for the Spring 1977 issue about an imaginary religion he called SAMO. The idea was a guilt free religion. Shortly after the article being published, they printed flyers with fictional testimonials from people who changed their lives by converting to SAMO. The reaction was so strong to it, they kept the joke going. The word “SAMO” came from “Same Old Shit,” which is what they would describe their marijuana.
In 1978, SAMO© began appearing on the walls of New York. They continued to push the religious narrative by writing things like “SAMO© AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO GOD.” The subject matters changed to consumerism and politics. It wasn’t until later 1978 that their identity was revealed by an article on the Village Voice.
This opened the doors for Basquiat. He began making connections in the art world with other artists like Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and George Condo. Diaz decided to go the music route. It was early to mid 80s when Basquiat's career started to take off. Reaching superstardom in what seemed like a blink of an eye. This brought added pressures to the artist that he wasn’t equipped to handle. He began doing heroin and his work fell out of favor among the collecting elites. This took Basquiat to a deep depression.
On August 12, 1988, 27-year-old Basquiat died at his art studio on Great Jones Street in Manhattan’s NoHo neighborhood.
Diaz recalled the time as “we were just kids.” “What we were doing was more like Greco-Roman graffiti, making commentaries on the world around us and that set us aside. We thought we were a little bit ahead of the game.” SAMO© returned after Trump was elected. Two hours after the election and social media post appeared.
“SAMO©,,, FOR NASTY WOMEN AND