Several months ago I was invited by Omino71 to be one of the twenty artists selected to pay tribute to Keith Haring on the 20th anniversary of his death. The premise of 20Keith, the name of this tribute exhibition, is based in paying homage to Haring by creating a new artwork inspired by a specific artwork by the artist. The exhibition is divided into four categories that give a clear view of the breadth of Haring’s oevure – color, sketches, propaganda, and performance. Omino71 carefully selected the original work by Haring designated to each artist and we were given free reign to interpret it as we wished. Etnik, Hogre, Alice’, Marco Petrella, Sone, and Mr. Klevra are just some of the artists included in this show, which includes everything from graphic design to paintings on canvas to a painted bicycle. In the midst of talking with Omino71 and others, I realized just how much Haring really influenced artists around the world, especially Italian artists of this generation. Haring made several visits to Italy, including Pisa to paint his famous mural Tuttomondo. And, as I discovered, he made trips to Rome as well, painting in front of Palazzo delle Esposizioni and at the metro Lepanto, though both murals were foolishly destroyed. And while through my interest in street art I’ve discovered the importance and impact of his work, my first thought when presented with this opportunity was to think “What is Haring to me?”
I was only 9 years old in 1990 when Haring died of AIDS and certainly contemporary art was not influential in my life until quite recently, so my first frame of reference for him was the cover art for A Very Special Christmas. Thinking about it now, the fact that a girl from an extremely small town didn’t know who this artist was (or even that it was art!), but knew the symbol and logo is probably exactly what Haring would have loved. Isn’t that what Pop Art is all about? I remember animations of Haring’s figures playing over and over again on MTV during ads for the album and it really is the apex of that sort of art. You’ve arrived when your work becomes ingrained in the psyche of the public – a public who doesn’t even realize what you’re doing, much in the same way advertising works.
When presented with my chosen work, a photographic series of body paintings, I started thinking more about the time period and what my impression of New York in the late 80s was. Dark, gritty, dangerous, but exciting. It was a time that I associate with a lot of cultural vibrancy, but also a lot of fear and panic with the AIDS epidemic. I tried to stay true to the ambience of the photographs, but give my own spin on them. The result is very different from what I normally show and I’m quite proud of them. The image above is a small preview of one of the four images and they really go best together viewed as a group, so I hope you will come by to see them and the other fabulous pieces by everyone else. And the party won’t end on Saturday because on Sunday night Stick My Pop takes over Circolo degli Artisti, where there will be tributes to Keith Haring and a stickering party not to be missed!
On sale will be a wonderful catalog written by Omino71 (PDF will be available in English online). Proceeds from the sale of the catalog with go to AISEA and all the works will be on sale, again with part of the proceeds going to charity, all in the spirit of Keith Haring. I’d like to think he’ll be watching on Saturday night when the show opens…..
Tribute to Keith Haring, curated by Omino71
September 11 – October 2
Opening September 11 at 7 pm
Galleria d’Arte Ex-Monti Club
via Baccina 66