The life of Jean-Michel Basquiat is often misinterpreted in artistic discourse. From a social justice perspective, Basquiat's work is not merely art. Despite the symbolism and subject matter open for analysis, Basquiat articulated the self in relation to nuances of race, socio-economy, and historical scripts based upon real relations and conditions. Of the genre of Neo-Expressionism without a disciplined schooling in art, Jean-Michel is categorized as 'primitive' in style and form, labeled the "first black artist." Beyond the art world's possessive confines and according to post-colonial aesthetics, Jean-Michel articulates the existence of a learning self. With a pedagogical lens, a process of becoming an "artist" deepened Basquiat's expressions of self in relation to a “white” art world, which typically restricted the artist to specific categories and definitional parameters.
While recognition of the "artist" highlights the limitations of 'public' and 'self' in pedagogy, learning of the self through Neo-Expressionism is contingent upon articulating a situated existence among particular "publics," with regard to time and place. Variable dimensions of recognition create a fragmented self with transitional 'stages' and a series of acute shifts re-establish the definitional boundaries of art, definers, and ultimately the self and “Other”. These shifts continuously create new margins of the avant-garde and the self is redefined by art and discourse to sustain capital inflow, thereby replicating the colonial nature of capitalism with regard to communication, material and discovery, and “Other”. The process eschews a realized finality while expression as a relational communication of the situated persona redefines one's identity and demarcates a value of the self.