Friday, March 16, 2012


I've associated New York City with Keith Haring since my first visit here. He's someone I wouldn't have known about without KTB, and so when I came here for the first time, I made sure we went to Pop Shop, the store on Lafayette that sold all things Haring - t-shirts, mugs, skateboards, dominoes; you name it, it was there with a Haring design. We bought an unbelievably cool flanneled hoodie dressing gown with Haring's Little Angel on it for our friends' 8 month old (meaning that child is now 10 - holy hell). I bought a cool t-shirt that I still own, albeit tattered and faded.

Today I went to the Members' Preview of Keith Haring 1978-1982, a really cool retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum. It was fabulous. His works were enormous and vibrant; they surprised me in their visceral and often overtly sexual nature. His work was playful and joyous and exuberant. I hadn't realised how much he used video, whether bopping away to a messed up version of the Flying Lizards' Money (That's What I Want) as his Tribute to Gloria Vanderbilt, or painting away to a Devo record. That movement is echoed within his paintings, where everything is in motion: his figures grow and stretch and dance and kick and wave. His use of street art is exciting and part of his overall sense that art should be for the people, not something bourgeois or only for the educated middle classes. One of my favourite things in the whole exhibition was a wall reproducing adverts for his performances and art works and installations - fliers with his photo, scrawled times and dates. You got the sense of excitement, but also how easy it would have been to ignore his work. I see signs stuck everywhere in the city but would never have thought that there could have been a Keith Haring behind it.

The exhibition also emphasized how bloody cool New York City was in the late seventies and early eighties and just why those who were here then have a sense of superiority at having been here; why they feel it's not as edgy or cool. Because it's not. Not anymore.

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