Two of the elements of this series feature the title word over and over again. In this example Basquiat repeats it in the top right of the canvas, sometimes in black boxes, and othertimes underlined in red. They are also joined by the number 15, and these types of decisions from the artist can be impossible to explain for those relatively unfamiliar with his career. The artist was famously complex and deep of mind, and these visual displays came directly from the depths of his imagination, without any amending to help us make sense of it all. Those more knowledgeable on his career will be able to decipher these different additions to the composition, often by examining his character and the issues around which he was most passionate. Even with the use of specific words, the rest of us are still pretty much none the wiser in the case of this particular series. Other parts of the series included Eroica and Eroica II.
Eroica is crossed out, and in its place we find "Man Dies". Essentially the artist is reducing even heroes down to common humans who are just as vulnerable as others. Basquiat had recently lost his friend Andy Warhol and perhaps this made him consider his own mortality in much greater detail than he had previously. The loss of his friend may have led to a grieving period in which he would reflect on many negative aspects of his own life, having already suffered mentally for many years.
Basquiat was from a street art background, as a specialist in graffiti. He would make use of a huge number of themes within his work, though a small number of them would appear many times over. Social issues being experienced by the black community, for example, were particularly important to him and he felt that few others with his position in society would have quite the same understanding or interest in drawing attention to those issues (there were very few famous black artists at this point), making his role critical. He also touched on religious topics within other paintings and within Eroica he was specifically talking about death, and his fear of his own. Sadly, he was not to live on much longer beyond this point and so there is a sombre aspect to this series of artworks that remain amongst his finest of all.