The resulting picture is not of a regular shape and, in some ways, resembles a 'triptych'.
The style of art produced by the artist reflects its roots in the street graffiti and an amalgamation of the 'punk' and 'rap' scene which developed into the 'hip-hop' culture of Manhattan's lower east side. It is considered that the left panel of the artwork reflects the artist's roots in graffiti and street art. The right hand panel features a 'head' image, possibly a self portrait of the artist. It should be noted that although the painting uses reclaimed materials, the actual work was undertaken in the artist's studio and represents a change from him being a 'street artist' to 'studio artist'.
Although adopting the use of a studio for his art, Basquiat never forgot his 'roots' in street art and graffiti and this is considered to be the reason for the constantly recurring 'S' symbol found in his work. This may be his 'tag' as used by so many graffiti artists. The center panel of the painting is possibly an homage to the New York graffiti artist Keith Haring who famously used blacked-out advertising billboards on the subway as his canvas for white chalk drawings.
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Derelict has a number of references to anatomical parts. This theme runs throughout the works of the artist and is possibly linked to his being given a copy of 'Gray's Anatomy' while in hospital as a small boy. This interest in anatomy is clearly portrayed in this work as the right-hand panel features a large head and the center-panel features two drawings of a lower leg and foot which are titled 'The Ankle'. The words "Ankle,Ankle,Ankle" are found in the lower part of the center-panel.
Where to View
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Derelict was painted in 1982. It is reported that the work is now a part of a privately owned collection and is not available for viewing. The artist died of a heroin overdose in August 1988.