Indepth Arts News: |
"Keith Haring: Ten Commandments"
2001-06-23 until 2001-08-31
UK United Kingdom
Painted in 1985, the ten monumental works (770 x 503 cm each) in oil on canvas are
immediate and deeply personal pieces. Reminiscent of huge stained glass windows,
the low horizons repeated in each painting give a sense of looking through the work to
an outside world where life takes place beyond the frame. They are neither a literal
representation of the original commandments nor a modern-day take on the scriptures
but a personal statement by Haring of the things which matter to him.
Keith Haring (1958-90) was pre-eminent among the young artists, performers, and
musicians whose work responded to urban street culture of the 1980s. When he arrived
in New York City at the age of 19 to enrol in the School of Visual Arts, he found an
alternative art world thriving outside the gallery and museum system, in the downtown
streets, the subways, and clubs. Inspired by the graffiti artists whose marks covered the
citys subway cars, he began to draw in white chalk over the black paper used to
cover vacant advertising panels. Eventually, the subway became, as Haring said, a
laboratory for working out his ideas. There he developed the series of images that
would become his signature: the radiant baby, the barking dog, and the running
As early as 1982, Haring began exhibiting in galleries and museums around the world. It
took the Haring retrospective, Keith Haring: A Retrospective at The Whitney Museum
( 1997) to reveal the scale of his achievement. His technical skill, periodically
overshadowed by his tragically early death from an AIDS related illness, left his
significance as an artist occasionally obscured by the publicity surrounding his life.
The Wapping Project at the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station provides an
architectural context comparable to the original site for which the works were made
(Bordeaux, 1985). The elegant proportions of the Boiler House enable the works to be
housed simply and unpretentiously, to dominate the space and dwarf the viewer.