Sunday, September 14, 2008

Krippled Keith

At the invitation of Friendatella, I joined him this afternoon for the matinee of The Universe of Keith Haring at the Roxie. It proved to be a decent and interesting documentary. I must admit that the iconic, overly exposed images of Haring's have grated on me over the years in much the same way those of Frida Kahlo have. However while the recent SFMOMA show of Kahlo's work radically forced me rethink my opinion of her, I didn't walk away with quite so radical a turn around with Haring. Friendatella and I agreed that the documentary was engaging enough but lacked real "muscle". Kenny Scharf's description of Haring's final hours was moving, but there was no real tug of emotion up to that point.

Haring did come across as a generally playful, politically engaged artist with little evident cynicism. There was some hype such as Yoko Ono talking about sneaking his ashes to scatter in Paris and contention that he opened the Pop Shop on Lafayette (two doors down from where I worked in the early 1990s) not for profit but to bring his art to the masses. His displays of sexuality were neither shocking nor angry, simply playful and celebratory. His atomic dancing babies, however, have always tired me. I do like some of his work that in excessive repetition starts looking like West African mud cloth.

Back in his era, I thought he was a fey but not that interesting or attractive nerdy celebrity. Today his nerd appeal and lean form are far more appealing to me. However, I almost got chills when I saw the images of him from infancy to about age 12. He looked exactly like L'il Junk Thief, horn rimmed glasses, burr haircut, artistic temperament and all.

3 Comments:

At 9:48 AM, Blogger rich bachelor said...

His ubiquity stretches into interesting places, too. Last time I attended a rodeo in my hometown (1991), the official t-shirt that year had what was either an actual Keith Haring design, or one of the more shameful rip-offs I've seen in my life.

It caused, shall I say it? Cultural cognitive dissonance. Yes. I said it.

 
At 10:28 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Rich - Yes, things do get co-opted, watered downed and repurposed to where the creator would not recognize his own original. I guess that is what happens when you live in a culture of junk thieves.

 
At 8:00 PM, Blogger joe said...

I entered -- a few years later -- the same BFA program he had been in. The similarities end there, I assure you, though I won't say I'm not a little envious. I never really "followed" him, though.

You're right, of course, about the mudcloth. I'd be interested in seeing this documentary.

 

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