Basil King was born in the East End of London in 1935 and came to the U.S. in 1947. At 16, he entered
Black Mountain College, where he studied painting and writing. In 1958 he married Martha and settled in New York to paint. During this time he made art for Yugen and Kultur magazines, and for books by LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Allen Ginsberg, and others. In the early 1970s, with two partners, he founded Mulch magazine; Mulch Press subsequently published six books, including Paul Blackburn’s Piere Vidal and Allen Ginsberg’s Visions of the Great Rememberer both with art by King. In the 1980s King painted images from playing cards, baseball, trees, and portraits of artists and poets and began writing regularly. In 1992, he began his long documentary prose/poem/media work, Mirage. Mirage paintings, watercolors, and pastels were exhibited for the first time at Gotham Book Mart in 1994, where King also read from his texts. Since that time, King combined reading with showing slides of his own art and others. King’s visual art is in the collections of the New York Public Library, Yale University, the late Morton & Lita Hornick, Wadsworth Athenaeum, Grand Valley State College, University of Kansas Museum of Art, David and Becky Starobin, State University of New York at Buffalo, the Gladstone Museum of Baseball Art, and Tom Seaver.
Mirage performances have been presented in Prague, Ljubljana (Slovenia), Groznjan (Croatia), Duino (Italy), Dartington College (U.K.), and Cody’s Bookstore, Berkeley, California. Text from Mirage has been published in Otis Rush (Australia), Boxkite (Australia), House Organ, and First Intensity. The Spring 2001 issue of Poetry/New York features a cover, portfolio of art, and a section from Warp Spasm, “Karla Faye”. Another section from Warp Spasm, “Identity”, will appear next fall in First Intensity. King’s other Mirage books include The Complete Miniatures and Devotions (Stop Press, London). Both combine text and art.