Keith Harring would have been 54 today

Keith Harring
Keith Harring

On February 16, 1990, at age 31, Keith Haring’s life was cut short due to an AIDS-related illness. He would have been 54 today and as a homage, here are a few words and a tribute to his most iconic pieces of art.

I wonder what Keith Haring (May 4, 1958 – February 16, 1990) would make of the global phenomenon that street art is now, art form very much confined to the street of New York City at the time when he decided to move there in 1978, aged 19.

Having studied commercial art and then Fine Arts, he took a keen interest in graffiti art, Haring would go out there and paste collages of fake New York Post headlines on lamposts or news stands. He explored the likes of SAMO (Jean-Michel Basquiat) or Fab Five Fred (Fred Brathwaite) graffiti art to quickly put in practice his own interpretation of this form of art and would develop his future vocabulary of primitive cartoon-like forms. The Haring’s chalk-drawn “radiant babies” and “barking dogs” were born (see pictures) and woud become familiar sights on the matt black surfaces used to cover the old advertisements in the subways.

Keith Harring Radiant babyKeith Harring Barking Dog

These chalk drawings in the subways of New York got Haring in the public eye and he would go on from there to have his first exclusive exhibition in the Tony Shafrazi Gallery which put together a retrospective a few years ago about it – see picture. Willing to reach a larger public, he immersed himself in popular American culture and befriended individials such as Andy Warhol, Madonna or Grace Jones (whom he would body-paint).

Haring was also a keen social activist and as a result of his ever increasing political involvement; he designed a Free South Africa poster in 1985 (see picture) and painting a section of the Berlin Wall in 1986 (see picture). Other works include design for Swatch watches or the Absolut Vodka advertisement (see picture)

Keith Harring work on the Berlin WallKeith Harring Free South Africa poster

Keith Harring’s work are just simply one of the best examples of how consumerism, popular culture and fine art merged in the 1980s.

Recommended readings
Keith Haring: The Authorized Biography by John Gruen (1991) includes interviews with the artist and those closest to him and is an invaluable source for understanding the art and life of Haring.

The early work is illustrated in Art in Transit: The Subway Drawings (1984) and Keith Haring (Shafrazi Gallery, 1982). An enlightening interview by David Sheff appeared in Rolling Stone (August 10, 1989).

Elizabeth Aubert directed an insightful video entitled Drawing the Line: A Portrait of Keith Haring (Biografilm, 1989).

Later an attempt was made to place Haring within a broader art historical context in Keith Haring, edited by Germano Celant (1992). □

Will Barras ‘Bad Reception’ at Stolen Space

I have always found that acrylic paint used in conjunction with spray paint is a definite winner and give you astonishing results. However, it is difficult to master both mediums for most of us unless you are Will Barras.

Bad Reception, his latest show at Stolen Space, brought to us a series of works never exhibited before which, for most of them, have been painted using acrylics and spray paint (oil and ink have also been used for some of the works).

I was walking towards the entrance of the gallery and could see some of Will Barras’ works and my first thought was ‘wow, it looks amazing from here’. I was eager to go in and check the show out.

The fact that most of the works are large scales pieces gives you the tone of the show – bold. A quick look around the gallery and it became obvious to me that the composition in his works is heavy and busy which, coupled with the large scale aspect make the whole experience very overwhelming. Add to this a varied and strong colour palette and often you get some sort of dramatic or epic feel to the painting, it is almost exhausting to look at his works as you need to look and look again to get the whole picture, to get the story behind it.

Indeed Will Barras intend to tell us a story, the story of Mr Benn – read more about iton the Stolen Space website

Will Barras’s technique is really remarkable, he manages to combine urban/graffiti techniques with more traditional mediums such as acrylics or oil and the result is breathtaking and definitely achieve to blur the line between abstract and reality – what is really going on these paintings?

“I want to maintain the natural flow and energy, the tension between abstract and figurative, while developing and elaborating on a narrative. To generate a multiple choice of possibilities of what could be happening Ideas usually develop from the everyday mundane, broken phone converations and awkward situations …” Will Barras

The show ran until the 14th November 2010.

NB: if you wonder whether the motorbike was part of the show, well not really. Will Barras decided to leave it there after the opening night. Random but it did fit well with the show!



The Duel – a LEGO animation

Animation by Namchild (based on ‘Duel’ by Lohenhart)

All effects (incl. motion blur/explosions/wind/wood etc.) are in shot and were happening as the picture is taken. No cgi is used. Photoshop is only used to remove support wires etc.


Official music –
Camo & Krooked
Hospital Records

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