The Universe of Keith Haring marks the first time a film has made me cry. I felt such a strong connection to his personality and mindset toward the world, and the people around him. This documentary reaffirmed my feeling that art allows an opportunity for a vision to live on and continue it’s evolution and significance; far beyond an artist’s lifespan.

 

Christina Clause did a wonderful job putting this 2008 documentary together. Keith Haring’s family, along with close friends, Yoko Ono, Kenny Scharf,  Jeffrey Deitch and Tony Shafrazi fondly recall their experiences with the influential artist. The film explains how Haring ended up in New York at exactly the right time (with exactly the right people), harnessing his creativity as a pop/graffiti artist. I’ve included all 7 parts of the documentary, along with pictures of his work. I hope it inspires and challenges you.

As Keith began to assert his sexuality, his pieces became increasingly phallic; forcing people to deal with his openly gay lifestyle. His overall style incorporated bold lines, bright colors, and active figures representing unity and life. His depictions of birth, sex, death and war left a long lasting legacy; revered as the visual language of the 20th century. Many political and social messages are presented in his work, such as the nuclear proliferation, the crack epidemic and AIDS. 

One area that I found endearing was his willingness to bring art out of the gallery and into everyday life. From his chalk drawings in New York Subways, to the murals he painted in Australia, Brazil, Paris, Minneapolis, and Manhattan, Haring felt a need to reach a wide range of people. As an artist, he resonated with adults and children of all sorts of backgrounds. Between 1982 and 1989, Haring created over 50 public works, many of which are still around today. His distinct approach and lively personality eventually caught the attention of Andy Warhol, who became a close friend and mentor. Sadly, Keith Haring died on February 16th, 1990 due to AIDS related complications. He was 31 years old.

 

In March, a retrospective exhibit of Haring’s work, Exhibitions: Keith Haring: 1978-1982, opened at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. Obey clothing now celebrates Keith Haring’s work, with a collection of mens and women’s clothing. 

Keith Haring Foundation 

- Jimi Jaxon

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