Posts Tagged ‘basquiat’

KEITH HARING

2011-07-04

[Picture of Keith Haring's Radiant Baby]Having done an article on Basquiat, I had to follow up with a Keith Haring tribute!

He became famous for his graffiti, especially his “Radiant Baby” symbol. It was not paint, just chalk drawings on the New York underground system — but it was just amazing!

Keith was a trained and studying artist, and he grew very successful indeed in the early 1980s. He had become a friend of Andy Warhol and Basquiat and was always in the news for getting up to all sorts.  He looked kinda geeky and nerdy too — which helped a great deal, as this was a sought-after look in those days.

He seemed always to be in some country or other doing a mural. He painted weird pop star Grace Jones as I recall.

OK, all that aside, I LOVED his work. It was doodles, almost stick men, but somehow it was just brilliant.  I couldn’t get enough of it. It always cheered me up.

[Picture of a wedding invitation by Haring] [Picture of Keith Haring's dancing people] [Picture of parent and baby by Keith Haring]

They are simply a joy!  He used cartoon lines to suggest movement, but I love it when he does a very old Beano trick of lines representing wonder, beeling, astonishment, embarrassment, amazement, and even love.  How else does one transfer that in art? It reminds me of Oor Wullie more than Lowry. It is personal and personable yet anonymous — you cannot even tell the gender of the adult with the baby – parent? possibly, probably, but more importantly is the love for the baby. (I have had people tell me that it is a mother [pink] with a son [blue], but I am not convinced, and I think it is meant to be open to interpretation — I certainly identify with it as a father.

Haring rode on the street art bandwagon of the early 1980s, but he was very commercial, and marketed well.  However, today he and his work is more firmly identified with AIDS — which I feel is a shame. He was such a great pop artist, and had he lived his art and products would have built him an empire and massive brand identity.

Haring is one of those whose work is immediately identifiable — as such his influence tends to be more in avoiding producing any art that could be mistaken for Haring’s!  I like that he is so much a part of it — yet my kids can copy his work (anyone can).

For me there is a slight irony in that his work began as chalk line men in the subway, and that usually means a crime scene, an homicide, a dead person… yet Haring made the chalk man come to life.  When I see a chalk line today, I more think of happy Haring than of Weegee’s Hell’s Kitchen’s homicides.

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BASQUIAT

2011-06-26

[Pic of Andy Warhol with Basquiat both weating boxing gloves]Jean-Michel Basquiat just amazed me to be frank.  He was almost the same age as me, but his life couldn’t have been more different; his life was complicated and truly deserves the description, “amazing”.

He died of an heroin overdose in 1988, and I heard the news when I was in London.  As a tribute, a bunch of us trekked around the rougher parts of town to look at the graffiti. It was one of the most bizarre nights of my life — but I won’t go into that here and now.

They said that Basquiat never got over the death of Andy Warhol the previous year. And although we didn’t know it at the time, but Keith Haring was to die of AIDS in the next few years.

[Picture of Samo graffiti by BVasquiat -- on cancer testing on animals]For me, rightly or wrongly, Basquiat and Haring represented street art elevated to “high art”.  What was happening with dance seemed to be echoed in art.  Break dancing and body popping on the street gained international recognition along with BMX bikes, skateboarding and — finally — proper graffiti.

It was the next big thing in the art world. And it represented a break from the tradition of education and established art world. This remains the case today; many professional and acclaimed artists have no formal training.

Basquiat (as SAMO) was a black impoverished going-nowhere fast kid in New York who started spraying graffiti — and it got noticed by the TV stations.

[Colour painting by Basquiat for gallery]Basquiat went from a homeless, abandoned street urchin who had been run-over and left for dead, to a feted neo-expressionist artist and mate of David Bowie and Andy Warhol. Jeeezo — he even dated Madonna!

The branded suit was discovered in the early 1980s , and Basquiat used to paint in a very expensive Armani suit, getting it covered in paint, and still wear it out to clubs! Brilliant.

Basquiat was rich, successful, famous, and of his time.  We were all getting on with our brick-sized mobile phones, shoulder pads and talk of “loadsamoney”.  It was excessive, and Basquiat died from overdosing, some say from his lifestyle.

I was not really a fan of his work (I much preferred Haring’s), but I recognised the importance of the man in raising graffiti to an artform.  Without Basquiat, we would not / could not have Banksy.

[ Samo graffiti -- confusing life]

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