Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Keith Haring Subwaysurfer Caricature Connection

I began thinking today about my artistic influences today and came up with some surprises. While it's true that I owe my development as a caricature artist to many of the artist I've spoken about in the caricature community listed on this blog, I thought back further and came up with a name I hadn't thought about in a loooong time.

Keith haring.

In the 1980's Haring was tagging like MAD in the subway system in a very unique way. Instead of using markers spray paint and using the metal trains for a canvas, Keith used simple chalk and the vacant black advertisement space reserved normally for corporate advertisements.

I used to see Haring's stuff occasionally while a student at Hunter College, and was inspired by his iconic drawings. In my search for my own artistic identity, I began to copy his work to the point of obsession.
Harings work had a simple Primal-esque quality to it that was immediately accessible. whether you were a seasoned or just a casual observer, you left one of his drawings with the feeling that you could reproduce it. You didn't get that feeling when looking at the awesome graffiti lettering and characters drawn on the trains. Haring's art seemed to be "in reach" of your ability. When You tried to do similar work however, it was THEN when you saw how complex it was. Well before he was "discovered" by the art world, haring already had a legion of fans, and I was particularly impressed when he said that most "big " people in the art worked didn't like him because he didn't "need" them to "make him a success"

Here's a quote from Harings website:

"...I think that in a way some [critics] are insulted because I didn't need them. Even [with] the subway drawings I didn't go through any of the 'proper channels' and succeeded in going directly to the public and finding my own audience...I bypassed them and found my public without them. They didn't have the chance to take credit for what I did. They think that they have the role of finding the artist...and then teaching the public....I sort of stepped on some toes..."16

I wanted my work to have that same power. At the time caricature drawing was not even a blip on my artistic radar screen, but now that I'm doing it, I feel like I am in some small way embodying the "spirit" of Harings work. Following my own vision, using the subway as a vehicle for personal artistic growth and expression. Perhaps one day I will get "discovered" like Haring. I certainly am counting on it.
I often wondered how would Haring have drawn me? He undoubtedly would've used a chalk line on a black background.
This is my fantasy " Haring chalk Drawing "
Check out More of his work by going to his Link on the right side of the page.


Roshanda said...

This is a nice, simple drawing. I enjoyed the story that goes along with it.

jason quinones said...

that was a great post man.

growing up in nyc myself i remember seeing haring's work all over the subway walls. the black and white contrast of his work was so impactful that it just stuck with you. i mimicked his style in my art as well. i'm a big fan of grafitti in general but his work especially was very inspiring. the ultra simplisitic iconography he creatd helped to bridge the gaps of art and graffitti. it wasn't vandalism anymore. many members of my family who otherwise loathed grafitti actually liked his work.

jason quinones said...

once when i was bored and unemployed for too long i painted the ceiling of my apartment a dark navy and then painted stark white keith haring dancing figures and snakes on top!

i really wish i took a picture of that ceiling before i moved.

Elgin Subwaysurfer Bolling said...

What I liked about Haring waa that he was a very unassuming guy. So often you see a lot of arrogance and "in your face-ness" attitude with street artists. I mean, if that's your personality, thats one thing, but c'mon, is EVERYBODY that hardcore?! some people are definitely posing!
Keith did a lot of community art projects as well which struck a responsive cord with people on a global level. Seems to be the secret to "becoming famous" You gotta hit em on a GLOBAL level!! Keith would have definitely been into flash today if he was still with us.