They left their marks on hip-hop culture. A dozen artists, most Black or Latino, are the subjects of a show with a unique mission.

''We were just having fun as kids, and then it went aboveground and folks started giving us loads of money.''

By 1984, 24-year-old Jean-Michal Basquiat had already broken into the mainstream of art world. But the onetime street artist still couldn't shake the legacy of his teenage years spent writing on the streets of New York City - mostly under the moniker of ''SAMO,'' which he often used to critique the commodification of art.

''There was really no ambition in it at all,'' Basquiat told the interviewer Marc Miller that year in an episode of  ''ART/new york,'' a video series on contemporary art. ''It was stuff from a young mind, you know what I mean?''

But the artist was not alone in his teenage pursuits : He was part of a constellation of young graffiti artists who used streets and subways as their canvases before going on to take both the art world and hip-hop culture by storm.

Their works are the subject of ''Writing the Future : Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation,'' an exhibition on at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which charts how Basquiat and 11 other street artists, most of them Black or Latino - Fab 5 Freddy, Lady Pink, Lee Quinnoes, Keith Haring, Remmelizee, Toxic,  A-One, Kool Koor, ERO, Futura and LA2 - formed the post graffiti movement in 1980s New York City.

Working across mediums, they made paintings, sculptures, films and music - 120 works are featured in the show - that were inspired by hip-hop's subversive use of language and blended elements of expressionism, pop art and their own heritages.

In bringing their anti-establishment work from the subways and streets to the canvases of the predominantly white art world, they also helped shape hip-hop culture, collaborating with musicians and filmmakers to transport their visions to the international stage.

The post-graffiti movement is ''one of the most overlooked but important movements in the second part of the 20th century,'' said Liz Musell, the museum's curator of contemporary art, who curated the exhibition with the writer and musician Greg Tate.

''There's been this distinction that's been made between street art and fine art,'' Munsell added, asserting that graffiti influenced the figurative and expressionist painting of artists including Frank Stella and Jenny Holzer in the 1970s and 80s. ''We're trying to collapse the boundary.''

Given the art world's attention to how certain white artists influenced Basquiat while all but ignoring his Black contemporaries, his relationship to the show's other featured artists are also lesser known in mainstream art history - a marginalization that Tate attributes to racism.

''The art world is not interested in rallying around the work of these artists being as important to the conversation around Jean-Michel'' as were his collaborations with Andy Warhol or Francesco Clemente, he said. ''That emphasis on him having a Black community, a community of color, has never really been highlighted.''

In response to those oversights, Basquiat's work constitutes only 25 of the 120 pieces on view in ''Writing the Future,'' most of which are drawn from private collections, with a few on loan from museums. Eight of those works showcase, for the first time, Basquiat's portraits of his peers.

In his 1983 work ''Hollywood Africans,'' Basquiat depicts himself, Rammellzee and Toxic, their heads floating between the words ''gangsterism'' and ''hero-ism,'' representing the ways that  Black artists and celebrities were pigeonholed in pop culture.

But in his stand-alone 1985 portrait of A-One, and another of Fab 5 Freddy from 1983-84, whose likeness he drew in marker on a ceramic plate, he paints the Black creators whom he called friends as individuals and talented artists.

''He was inserting then in this lone lineage of Black cultural producers and people to be remembered,'' Munsell  said of the portraits.

The Publishing continues into the future. The World Students Society thanks author Julianne Mcshane.


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