27 Jan-30 June 2003. When the rental for an advertising poster in the New York subway system expires, its space is plastered over with black paper. At the height of Graffiti Art in the 1970s, Keith Haring treated this just like a blackboard and covered it with drawings of merry little figures in nursery school chalks. Little people, snakes or moons illustrated busy modern life and anxieties, fun and doom, giving the hurrying travellers some relief.
This was a free and rebellious moment in art. But soon the graffiti kids got absorbed by the system. Harings figures proliferated over huge canvases and his manikins, enlivened by little lines of vibration to evoke movement, did not get wilder, but busier. Some of his funny major icons blaze in our memory like a logo. Though later driven by a fierce commercialism like Andy Warhol, he was an artist with deeper ideas. His big canvases (sometimes tarpaulins or sheets of metal), swarming with creatures, communicated something true and endearing, a human hopeless energy.
Towards the end of his short life he commissioned "sculptures". They are his usual icons cut out from sheets of aluminium or steel and covered with primary colours, bright and attractive silhouettes.
"Julia", "Self Portrait", of 1987 and 1989 respectively, and two more recent sculptures were scheduled to be shown at Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome this year. But since the turn-of-the-century exhibition space on Via Nazionale is undergoing restoration, the sculptures figures and curls of shape like flat giant toys are standing behind the fences of the American Academy on the Janiculum. Edith Schloss.
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Keith Haring. Four sculptures.
American Academy, Via A. Masina 5, tel. 0658461. Daily from dawn to dusk.
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