Thursday, July 2, 2009

Universe of Keith Haring

Last night Anevay and I watched 'The Universe of Keith Haring', a documentary by Christina Clausen about the life and art of the artist. Living in NY, one gets a glimpse of his work just by walking the streets. How many millions of times have I walked by this mural?

But Keith Haring's work goes far beyond large mural pieces... Hoards of people wear the sort of iconic linear designs that made him famous:

Keith Haring was concerned with semiotics, and spent time early in his career crafting his own set of recognizable, repeated symbols. Many try to do this, but what makes Keith's work so unique is that it is truly recognized after seeing just two or three simple lines. Not many are able to do this- it's partially what made him genius. I'm not particularly in love with Keith's aesthetic, but I do appreciate the art of recognition.

Another aspect of his genius is how he helped revolutionize the art world. He took his work outside of the gallery, into the street. He made art accessible to the masses- by putting his image on t-shirts and other small items, he made his work affordable.

One of the best quotes in the documentary was from Yoko Ono:

Andy Warhol made art that looked like it meant something, but it meant nothing. Keith Haring made art that looked like nothing, but meant a lot.

The documentary was filled with much footage of Keith Haring, and chock-full of friends and family offering glimpses into his life. The man truly lived and breathed his art... He traveled all over the entire world, invited by prestigious galleries to put on exhibitions- his condition for doing this was that he be allowed to make a public-art piece- a mural... This was the art he would leave behind for everyone. Told by many throughout his life to make less art (which some gallery-owners and collectors thought would increase his prices and demand for the art), but he did the opposite. He drew on clothing and shoes for for anyone who asked, and created more in his short lifetime than would seem possible. He had an incredible drive and sense of self which has really been maintained, and in fact, cultivated, since his death.

After Keith Haring learned he was infected by HIV, not only did he became an even more prolific artist, but he founded the Keith Haring Foundation:

The mission of the Keith Haring Foundation is to sustain, expand, and protect the legacy of Keith Haring, his art, and his ideals. The Foundation supports not-for-profit organizations that assist children, as well as organizations involved in education, research and care related to AIDS.

Keith Haring (1958-1990) generously contributed his talents and resources to numerous causes. He conducted art workshops with children, created logos and posters for public service agencies, and produced murals, sculptures, and paintings to benefit health centers and disadvantaged communities. In 1989, Keith established a foundation to ensure that his philanthropic legacy would continue indefinitely.

The Keith Haring Foundation makes grants to not-for-profit groups which engage in charitable and educational activities. In accordance with Keith's wishes, the Foundation concentrates its giving in two areas: The support of organizations which provide educational opportunities to underprivileged children and the support of organizations which engage in research and care with respect to AIDS and HIV infection.

Keith Haring additionally charged the Foundation with maintaining and protecting his artistic legacy after his death. The Foundation maintains a collection of art along with archives which facilitate historical research about the artist and the times and places in which he lived and worked. The Foundation supports arts and educational institutions by funding exhibitions, educational programs, acquisitions and publications that serve to contextualize and illuminate the artist's work and philosophy.

The above description is taken from the Keith Haring website. Click here for more information.

My daughter and I got a lot out of watching the documentary last night. Perhaps you will, too. Check out the trailer:

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