"Street" Culture

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Abstract Summary

From minstrelsy to jazz music, white Americans have always had a fascination with the culture of urban Black Americans. My research seeks to dissect this fascination of black culture through the careers of Jean Michel Basquiat and Virgil Abloh. Jean Michel Basquiat gained acclaim in the arts scene using his graffiti and a style deemed “primitive”, which allowed him to become a staple in American art history. Similarly, Virgil Abloh used streetwear clothing and pushed them into a luxury fashion space where they were traditionally denied. Through this project, I plan to further research the American tradition of urban black culture exploration as a means of monetary gain and cultural appropriation. This project is in no way to belittle or undermine the success of these two artists but, intends to further question why white art patrons only endorse certain styles of artwork from the black community? Although Virgil Abloh’s career started twenty-three years after the death of Jean Michel Basquiat, the parallels between these two artists of completely different disciplines is astounding and are worth further exploration. It is my hope that through the completion of this project I will understand white patronage and its relationship to the synthesizing of black urban culture into (white)mainstream society.

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