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Keith Haring: Going, Going . . . Alas, Soon Gone
Rushing a little to get this to you as the Keith Haring exhibition at the Brattleboro Museum will close on June 11. And I am a little breathless from the experience of standing in a gallery surrounded by his subway drawings.
“Haring drew over 5000 chalk drawings over a five year period, from 1980 to 1985, in New York city subway stations. From the very beginning of his career Haring was determined to create art that could be experienced by everyone both through an accessible style and by locating his work in easily reachable, public locations. Creating art on the street meant that a bigger audience could see his work, outside of the more insular space of an art gallery.”(Amy Raffel, Guest Essayist)
This exhibition makes Haring’s energy palpable, as if you are there feeling the rumble of the subway, watching over his shoulder (as many subway patrons did) as he quickly creates his drawings on the throw-away black matte paper that was used to cover expired advertising posters. He, in turn, is ever looking back over his own shoulder to make sure he is one step ahead of the police (photo here), head swiveling for just a moment back to his canvas. He claims he is making art, and that “it’s for you.”; the cops think he’s a criminal vandal. Though, of course, he said, some of them later became fans.
Though he made art in subways as a way to get noticed and build a career, Haring continued to do so even after his career was launched. He designed buttons with pictures of his characters and gave them away to thousands of subway riders to enhance the visibility of his work. His arrests, when they inevitably occurred, were part performative. A friend taped one in progress and the video found its way to CBS News. (You can watch it, and see two interviews with Haring (unexpectedly sweet) as part of this exhibition.)
A handful of other works by Haring are included in the exhibition. The photo, above, is of dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones. Haring actually painted Jones’ body; it became his canvas.
Oh, so young, so disarming, so committed to his art, so entrepreneurial . . . Keith Haring, like so many of his generation, was felled by HIV/AIDS in 1990. He was 31 years old.
Catch this exhibition if you can by June 11. Brattleboro Museum and Art Center has all the info you need for a visit right here.
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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.