Friday, November 19, 2010

Arty Farty Friday ~ Keith Haring

I wasn't aware of the artwork of Keith Haring until I picked up a grime-covered framed print in a junk-cum-antique shop on our recent road trip (see last Sunday's post). I was intrigued by what I could see under the grime, showed the item to my husband who recognised the work at once as that of the late Keith Haring, artist and social activist.

Haring's style is the complete opposite of Richard Estes' photo realism featured in the last Arty Farty Friday post. Haring's signature style is cartoon or graffiti-like, sparse, simple, yet engaging. There's more to it than may appear at first glance too.
(From bio HERE)

Haring was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988. In 1989, he established the Keith Haring Foundation, its mandate being to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children’s programs, and to expand the audience for Haring’s work through exhibitions, publications and the licensing of his images. Haring enlisted his imagery during the last years of his life to speak about his own illness and generate activism and awareness about AIDS.

During a brief but intense career that spanned the 1980s, Haring’s work was featured in over 100 solo and group exhibitions. In 1986 alone, he was the subject of more than 40 newspaper and magazine articles. He was highly sought after to participate in collaborative projects, and worked with artists and performers as diverse as Madonna, Grace Jones, Bill T. Jones, William Burroughs, Timothy Leary, Jenny Holzer, Yoko Ono and Andy Warhol. By expressing universal concepts of birth, death, love, sex and war, using a primacy of line and directness of message, Haring was able to attract a wide audience and assure the accessibility and staying power of his imagery, which has become a universally recognized visual language of the 20th century.

From Art Encyclopedia

He graduated from Kutztown Area Senior High School in 1976 and spent some time travelling across America before studying at the Art Centre in Pittsburgh. In 1978 he moved to New York to attend the School of Visual Arts, where his original approach was soon apparent in graffiti-inspired symbols expanded into large-scale designs of generative energy. At the height of the Punk Rock movement in the late 1970s he participated in the lively New York club scene, working with such street artists as 'Samo' (Jean-Michel Basquiat, b 1960). In the summer of 1980 he took up drawing, inventing intricate cartoon-style murals of mutant figures locked in hyper-physical engagement. He was a meteoric star in American art during the 1980s, exhibiting and working on projects throughout the USA, Europe and Asia, and his work became a symbol of the tribal undercurrents that permeate metropolitan life. His accessible imagery stems as much from Islamic and Japanese art as the sign language of contemporary culture. In 1986 the artist opened his own retail outlet, The Pop Shop, in New York and was continuously engaged in projects of an extraordinarily diverse nature, from murals on the Berlin Wall to paintings on hot air balloons, motor cars and decorative accessories. A giant 'spectacolour' billboard broadcast his famous Radiant Child image in Times Square, first in 1982. He fell victim to the AIDS epidemic in 1988 and died at the age of 31.

From the Keith Haring website
His art is pop because the desire to communicate prompted him to paint with the same spirit as the portals of churches were painted in the past in order to convey a message to the illiterate. He developed a language of his own, made up of synthetic and archetypal signs, that is, signs that are common to all times, places, and cultures. Simple signs-genuine hieroglyphs that led him to transgress the idea that painting, to be modern, must necessarily free itself of narration. The immediacy of his line and the recognizability of his figures, along with this narrative character, have made his art popular, but have also led some of the critics to treat him with a degree of suspicion, although over time many have come to change their view. Another gross mistake has been to consider him a graffiti artist, something that Haring was not, never having been a street artist. Taking his art into the street was his way of reaching the largest possible number of people, but Haring saw himself in relation to the history of art and not to urban and suburban culture. He was a friend of Warhol, from whom he learned how to approach the public. They were united by something that went beyond the linguistic and formal aspect: the way in which they related to death. The best art always comes out of inner conflict. In Warhol and Haring's case, this conflict was between the joy of life and the anguish of death.
So, there I was in a cavernous and chaotic junk store with a grimy framed print of one of Keith Haring's paintings in my hands. I paid $15 for it, but once polished up we decided, after a bit of research, that it was a bargain, because even unframed posters of his work now cost much more than that. It carries the official seal of the Keith Haring Estate, so it's not a "knock-off", and from the decorative custom-made frame and mat we suspect it was originally purchased at either one of his exhibitions, or from his Pop Shop. I doubt it'd be on sale in some stores for less than $70. This is the original as documented at the KH website, followed by a photo of the framed print I bought which now hangs in our kitchen-cum diner. It's not a perfect shot because of reflections on the glass.

Now a brief look at Keith Haring's natal chart.
He was born on 4 May 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania at 12.41 PM (Astrodatabank)

Sun in Taurus, sign ruled by Venus planet of the arts, is no surprise. Uranus is squaring Sun from Leo, challenging Taurus's more traditional leanings with a strong dose of the avant garde, which comes over very clearly from Haring's artwork.
His 29 degree Scorpio Moon is challenged squarely by darkly powerful Pluto (ruler of Scorpio) and in a scratchy qunincunx (150* angle) to Venus in Pisces. these uncomfortable aspects reflect, I suspect, some inner (Moon) discomfort with the world at large, which comes out, for all to see, in some of his work.

On the day he died, of complications arising from AIDS, Pluto (planet of death and transformation) at 17 Scorpio was opposing his natal Sun (self), and had been exactly opposite a few months earlier as the disease was taking its deathly hold.

Some examples of his work:




Wisewebwoman said...

What a find T!
Thanks for sharing this greatly unusual talent with us.

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ His work isn't what I'd normally choose to hang on our walls, but something about this one attracted me. He's a part of art history anyway, and his short life represents a very sad part of social/medical history.

Rossa said...

I like stories like this which is why I watch Antiques Roadshow. Yes, it is still on TV on a Sunday evening. My favourites are always the ones found in a junk shop, saved from a skip or found at a car boot sale.

Though not many to beat the Chinese vase that just sold for £53m. Was only issured for £800 and the local auctioneers hadn't a clue what they'd got until an independent valuation expert called in and happened to spot it.

It was kept on top of a wobbly bookcase, gathering dust and completely overlooked until the house was cleared after the owner died. Her relatives had to rush outside when the hammer came down as even when it was valued by the expert he said about £1.2m. After taxes etc they will get £26m. Now that's what I call a jackpot.

Twilight said...

Rossa ~~~ Yes, I like antiques Roadshow. We have a US version here. It's good but they don't have as good "characters" doing the chat and valuations as I remember from the UK shows. I used to watch it in the UK as much for the valuers as for the antiques. :-)

My find is but a minor triumph. Store owners are very educated these days in what stuff is worth, and ultra careful to sift through their stocks. My framed print was found in a tiny sleepy town, in an out-of-the-way disorganised store.
Anywhere else it'd have been recognised, polished up and marked up by quite a lot.

anyjazz said...

As I have said before, it is always fun to search the junk shops with you. You have a keen eye for the real treasures.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~~~ Well....I found you, didn't I? Thanks. :-D

Julie said...

Do you know Bill T jones' birth tx or Rising sign or his chart?Please "share" with me...Want to understand The Dancer's mind and spirit more for my self and other's via Jungian Astrology.Thanks!

Twilight said...

Julie: Hi!

I can't find any time of birth online for Bill T Jones, so his rising sign can't be calculated. He was born 15 February 1952 in Bunnell,Florida. That gives the following~~

Sun and Mercury in Aquarius. Venus in Capricorn semi-sextile Sun (mildly helpful, adding a touch of earthy common sense to Aquarius's often futuristic left-field style).

Mars in Scorpio

Neptune, probably Moon, and Saturn in Libra - in harmonious trine to his Aquarius's another layer of creativity
also Saturn in Libra - again bringing structure and discipline into the picture.
Jupiter is in Aries.

If you'd like to see his chart you could go to and input his details to their chart calculation facility (free).
Hope this helps. :-)