From Graffiti To Galleries With Dr. Dax And Jean-Michel Basquiat

Mar 31, 2016

Not long ago, “Two Way Street” producer Jenny Ament told me she thought we ought to do an interview with Dr. Dax. Dax, for all of you out there who are as clueless as I was, is one of the best-known Atlanta graffiti writers to make a splash on the national scene.

    

Dr. Dax
Credit Diwang Valdez

Jenny told me Dax would be a great guest; he’d take us inside the secret world of the graffiti scene to talk about his years of spray-painting his work on the sides of buildings, on highway underpasses, and best of all, on the cars of freight trains! Plus, as a teenager Dax had hung out with a bunch of young black Atlanta kids who all wanted to make it big in rap music; and when OutKast, Goodie Mob and others did become major stars of the music world, they took their white friend Dax along with them. His strong visual style made him the right choice to produce some of their music videos.

 Jenny did acknowledge that one of the big challenges of interviewing Dax would be to get him to complete an entire sentence without dropping three or four f-bombs…and then there was his history of being involved in illegal drugs when he was younger. But she pitched the show as the story of a guy who had lived an outlaw life but who had discovered that graffiti writing could be more than vandalism (his own words for it). With his talent he could become a successful and respected artist. And that’s just what happened – Dax’s work now hangs in galleries where it fetches up to five figures per canvas.

Since Jenny and I have only been working together for a fairly short period of time, I think that at least subconsciously she wanted to test my willingness to reach beyond the conventional bookings of authors, chefs and the like to bring someone in who was way outside the mainstream. That’s not really a problem for me at all, but Jenny’s enthusiasm for Dax closed the deal.

Dax, it turns out, is a truly engaging conversationalist. He’s also a very sweet guy. And you know what? He didn’t swear once during our entire conversation!

Jean-Michel Basquiat on the set of "Downtown 81."
Credit Edo Bertoglio / New York Beat Films LLC

  

Later in the show, we talk with Michael Rooks, the curator of contemporary and modern art at the High Museum of Art, about a new exhibition featuring the notebooks of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat was arguably the most famous of the New York street artists who emerged in the early 1980s, painting on public spaces across the city. But Basquiat’s work was soon discovered by the elites of the art world, and he was embraced as the leading light of the Neo-expressionist movement. The exhibition at the High features the notebooks he used to work out his ideas on a small scale before executing them in their final form.

Enjoy the show!