Sunday, November 02, 2014

Keith Haring: The "Peter Max of the subway"

This "art" will greet visitors to the deYoung

I can't really call the Keith Haring exhibit at the de Young Museum an Eyesore of the Week yet, since it won't start until November 8 and will be an ongoing eyesore inside that hideous building until February 16 (See also this).

In the current SF/Arts Monthly, we are reminded that, like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Haring started as a graffiti vandal, which is why Robert Hughes called him "the Peter Max of the subway":

Although his success was meteoric, Haring made his name in his early 20s as a graffiti artist in the New York subway system. Using white chalk on empty advertising panels that lined station walls, he dashed off the motifs developed when he was a student fresh out of art school, which would populate his works for the following decade: infants emitting beams of light, zooming spaceships zapping earthlings, barking dogs, angels, pulsing TV sets and multi-limbed creatures of alien origin.

The writer invokes that well-known art critic, the late William Burroughs:

“Just as no one can look at a sunflower without thinking of Van Gogh, so no one can be in the New York subway without thinking of Keith Haring,” William S. Burroughs once said. Haring’s journal entry describing his 1987 visit with the author, with whom he occasionally collaborated, is in the show.

No one can think of good old William Burroughs without recalling that he shot his wife dead and went on to live a long life as a gun nut, junkie, and author of the contemptible Naked Lunch, pages of gibberish punctuated with descriptions of sex and violence.

The de Young website, in a fitting tribute to an artist children and their juvenile parents will enjoy, provides a link to an interactive coloring book for the kids.

Twenty five years ago, Robert Hughes summarized what's happened with art education in the United States:

MOMA's values were blown through the American education system, from high school upwards---and downwards, too, greatly raising the status of "creativity" and "self-expression" in kindergarten. By the 1970s, the historical study of modern art had expanded to the point where students were scratching for unexploited thesis subjects. By the mid-eighties, twenty-one-year-old art-history majors would be writing papers on the twenty-six-year-old graffitists. (Robert Hughes, The Shock of the New).

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