Red ‘Haring’!

Red ‘Haring’!
Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum

The people’s artist of New York is coming home.

The early works of New York’s quintessential street scrawler Keith Haring is coming to the Brooklyn Museum on March 16 in a multimedia testimony and tribute to an artist whose rise to stardom defied tradition.

“Haring went directly to his audience,” said Julia Gruen, executive director of the Keith Haring Foundation. “Rather than being promoted, presented and sort of nurtured by a particular gallery, connoisseur or collector who might have introduced this young artist. Instead Keith just leaped over that stage and went directly to the people of New York City.”

Haring’s work is famously unconstrained by the exclusivity of the traditional, gallery venue, and his use of simple, cartoonish style to illustrate themes of birth, death, sex, war and AIDS, is arresting, and struck a chord with a city polarized by excess and poverty, a wild nightlife scene, rising crime rates and the AIDS epidemic.

“He really embraced the culture of New York, the graffiti and the night life, the city was his medium,” said Tricia Bloom, curator of the Haring exhibit. “He wanted to intervene with the public experience in ways that hadn’t happened before.”

The exhibition — the first large-scale showing of Haring’s work in NYC since the Whitney Museum’s exhibit in 1997 — will cover the artist’s earliest work from 1978–1982, and features 155 works on paper, seven experimental films, and more than 150 archival objects, among them rarely seen sketchbooks, journals, exhibition flyers, posters, subway drawings, and documentary photographs.

“Something that sets this show apart is the curator took the chance to narrow the focus on Haring,” said Gruen. “By trying to cover an artist’s entire career you lose something. By taking that more narrow focus you learn so much and that’s what we hope for this Haring show.”

Brooklyn Museum [200 Eastern Pkwy. between Flatbush and Washington avenues in Prospect Heights, (718) 638-5000] Mar. 16. $12 suggested donation. For info, visit www.brooklynmuseum.org

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.