Kay Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing
Keith was an incredible artist who pioneered the pop art movement in NYC in the 1980's and still to this day continues to be one of the most prolific artists of our time.
From a very early age, I was introduced to art. Growing up in NYC, I was surrounded by museums, street art and loved to draw. My great-grandfather taught me to color in the lines when I was only 2 years old. When I was in the second grade, my teacher took us on a trip to the Queens Museum of Art. At the museum, they had an amazing art room, where kids could learn about some of the museums featured artists. On that particular day, we studied Keith Haring, one of the most amazing pop artists in New York, who was creating street art and bringing this style to mainstream galleries all over the world.
Keith's drawing style was eclectic, with broad black lines and pops of color. His character drawings to this day, are some of the most recognizable and inspirational figures in the art world. His art told the story of social messages, friendship, inclusion and visually displayed his feelings of the world. I cant believe I am admitting this, but I put one of the cutouts of "the dancing man" in my pocket and carried it around with me until college. (I'm truly sorry and I promise I will return it)
Growing up in New York taught me a lot about the idea of being "open." Open to new ideas, respectful of others choices and certainly to view the world through a wide lense. I grew up in a time where people with pink hair was the norm, running into the gay pride parade was fun and hopping on a subway to PS1 for an art show was a Friday night. Homelessness became a serious problem during the 1980s, and as a young child, seeing people living in a subway station was not shocking. The late 80's and early 90's were a time where some of the biggest club emerged, drugs were being cracked down on and converted low-end rental housing and condos attracted young upscale professionals and business people.
Growing up in a small Pennsylvania town, Keith moved to New York in 1978. After enrolling in the School of Visual Arts, Haring found a thriving alternative art community that was developing outside the gallery and museum system, in the downtown streets, the subways and spaces in clubs and former dance halls. Here he became friends with fellow artists Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as the musicians, performance artists and graffiti writers that comprised the burgeoning art community. Haring was swept up in the energy and spirit of this scene and began to organize and participate in exhibitions and performances at Club 57 and other alternative venues. (1)
The subways were a place for art, at least a place for Keith. Subway advertising at the time, were large stickers that were placed on black backdrops that could be removed. We werent digital back then :) When the ads were being replaced, the black squares remained empty, and these were Keith's canvases. By drawing with stark white chalk, Keith was able to share his art with the world. The people in the subway were not all "upscale" art gallery folks, but the real people that brought life to the city. He loved that! Through his drawings, he became one of the most recognized "graffiti" artisits of our time.
I dont know what drew me to him at such a young age, but I traced every piece of art he made and read everything I could get my hands on. I loved his bold drawings and his art inspired me to "keep drawing" throughout my life and I still till this day think of him every time I create art. He was an artisit of the people. Though he hung around in celebrity circles, he was always true to his dream. Art is for everyone.
When the Pop Shop opened in 1986, a retail store in Soho selling T-shirts, toys, posters, buttons and magnets bearing his images, I proudly wore a button on my backpack with this crawling baby image. I guess it reminded me that we all start from somewhere. Keith Haring was and will always be one of the most influential artists that the art world has seen. He exposed people to art in the most grassroots way and inspired children like myself, to just keep drawing. His sister Kay, beautifully illustrates his passion for art in her book "The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing." It's not a story about being a famous artist but more about him as a person. A caring, loving, fun brother who's passion for art inspired so many. His love for being around others and simply "drawing" allowed him to stay true to the beautiful, amazing person he was.
Knowing him would have been a blessing, experiencing his art is a joy and his memory will always be a gift to those who love him.
Kay has herself had an incredible career. Her work in the non-profit sector, her gift of storytelling and her beautiful love for her brother, is a true testament to the incredible family that her and her siblings were raised with. Her story of publishing, of the many lives SHE has touched through her work, is an inspiration to myself and countless others all over the globe. It is with great joy, that I invite you to please join us as we welcome Kay Haring to our show on Monday September 28th at 10:15am.