Craft & Consumption

Friday, May 4, 2012

Haring's Party of Life lives on {Happy 54th Keith!}

(this photo of me was taken by @maskrenter

Last weekend I went to a really wonderful exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum that highlighted Keith Haring's artwork from 1978-1982 (details here). Out of dozens of Haring exhibits I've seen in my lifetime (it's kind of a family tradition to seek them out where we can), this was hands-down one of my favorites. 

(this photo is taken from my personal instagram)

The curator, Raphaela Platow, did a fabulous job telling the story of how Keith's work came to take on such iconic, consistent, simple characters. 

She focuses on his abstract work first and the visual library he crafts early in his career. Then she traces the evolution of those abstract drawings, paintings and prints to a consistent library of iconic imagery like the radiant baby, the barking dog, the spaceship, and the dancing daisy. 

The exhibition also does a great job highlighting the cultural influences that affected Keith's work and life, from his obsession with news to the music he listened to. There was a steady stream of B-52's and Talking Heads music floating throughout the gallery space. The curator also highlighted Keith's friends and the 1980's club scene which was a huge influence in all aspects of his life. 

(this photo was taken by my dear friend @burkecherrie)

One of the main take-aways for me from the exhibition was Keith's dedication to not just art itself, but the art of doing. He was very serious about the process of creating (to the point of video-taping himself in the act of painting to study his own rhythm and movements). From the way in which the brushstrokes were laid on the canvas to the way in which he charted his own productivity with list after list, daily - he was meticulous and dedicated to his craft. 

Haring writes in a Nov 9, 1978 journal entry:

"I hope I am not vain in thinking that I may be exploring possibilities that artists like Stuart Davis, Jackson Pollack, Jean Dubuffet, and Pierre Alechnisky have initiated, but did not resolve. Their ideas are living ideas. They cannot be resolved, only explored deeper and deeper. I find comfort in the knowledge that they were on a similar search. 

In some sense I am not alone. I feel it when I see this work. Their ideas live on and increase in power as they are explored and re-discovered. I am not alone, as they were not alone, as no artist of the brotherhood ever was or ever will be alone. When I am aware of this unity and refuse to let my self-doubt and lack of self-confidence interfere, it is one of the most wonderful feelings I've ever experienced. I am a necessary part of an important search to which there is no end."

Reading Ernest Hemingway lately I've been drawing lots of parallels between the two young men who both approached their work with absolute fervor. Concentrating on the process of creating (and taking it seriously) is just as important, or perhaps even more so, as the finished product.

I'm so glad I got to spend time at the Brooklyn Museum last weekend. Today would've been Haring's 54th birthday. In fact, even Google is honoring his work today as a birthday tribute:

I take a lot of inspiration from Haring's approach to life, not least of which is the shameless act of celebrating one's birthday. Keith hosted an annual "Party of Life" every year and invited hundreds of his friends out to dance and get a little crazy at clubs like Paradise Garage. Love it. I plan to do the same (but poolside, in Pennsylvania) come June.

After all, we're only here for a short, short time. Better find time to celebrate amidst all of the passionate dedication!

"No matter how long you work, it's always going to end sometime. There's always going to be things left undone. It wouldn't matter if you lived until you were seventy-five. There would still be new ideas. There would still be things that you wished you would have accomplished. There are no regrets. Part of the reason that I'm not having trouble facing the reality of death is that it's not a limitation. It could have happened any time, and it is going to happen sometime. If you live your life according to that, death is irrelevant." -K.Haring 
interview by David Sheff 

For more awesome Keith Haring references, check out:

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