By all appearances, downtown filmmaker Sara Driver had a pretty good weekend. On Friday night, Boom For Real, Driver’s evocative, propulsive, and genuinely moving documentary of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s late teenage years (and the late 1970s Lower East Side art scene that nurtured his extraordinary talent), had its world premiere at the IFC, following a rave review in the Times. It’s a terrific movie, functioning equally well as a we-were-there record of how Basquiat went from homeless kid spraying Samo© to instant sensation at PS1’s New York/New Wave in 1981, his first-ever public show; and as a loving portrait of a neighborhood abandoned by the rest of the city, and all craziness and creativity that ensued.
Then on Sunday evening Driver and a coterie that included the likes of her partner Jim Jarmusch, Lee Quinones, Rosie Perez, Katie Taylor Legnini, Jimmy Webb, Henry Chalfant, Jeffrey Deitch, Luc Sante, and Alexis Adler crammed into the opening of a big group exhibition at the Howl! Happening space. A line to get in formed early and extended all the way over to Bowery for much of the night.
The show, curated by Driver, Howl!, Carlo McCormick, and Mary-Ann Monforton and called “Zeitgeist: The Art Scene of Teenage Basquiat,” includes works from that era by (in addition to some of the folks mentioned above) Nan Goldin, Futura, Charlie Ahearn, Becky Howland, Fab 5 Freddy, Kenny Scharf, Coleen Fitzgibbon, Richard Hambleton, and, of course Basquiat himself.
This, too, is excellent, a time capsule from those few years of freedom and possibility right before AIDS ravaged the city’s youth, before the art market exploded and suddenly it was all about money, before real estate developers bought up everything in sight and made downtown “safe” again for rich people.
“Zeigeist: The Art of Teenage Basquiat” will be on view at Howl! Happening, 6 East First Street between Bowery and Second Avenue, through June 10. Boom For Real is now playing at the IFC Center.