Checking out the New Keith Haring Exhibit at TBD Gallery on Allen Street

Posted on: April 2nd, 2015 at 5:17 am by

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Photo: Lori Greenberg

Keith Haring’s art tends to be found in major galleries and museums these days. So it was pretty exciting to recently view his work back downtown where it originated.

“Keith Haring: 05041958,” which just opened at the TBD Gallery at 97 Allen Street, includes many of his works and explores a wide range of materials. We spied some of Haring’s famed subway chalk drawings, which we remember from spending many an hour in subway stations in the 80s.

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Photo: Lori Greenberg

There are famous tales of folks who stole some of those chalk drawings directly off of the walls, simply because they liked them. (Haring was an unknown artist at the time.) Back then, Haring’s “canvas” was the ubiquitous black paper found throughout the subway system as placeholders for subway ads. One day, Haring passed the black paper as he was exiting the station, and inspiration struck. He went upstairs, bought some chalk, and then headed right back into the subway downstairs to start drawing.

Since the city was in bad shape, and the subway wasn’t exactly considered prime advertising real estate, there were many blank slates waiting for Haring to make his mark. Once he was set loose, those images were considered “vandalism,” though Haring thought of it more as “performance,” since folks would often stop and watch him work. At the time, nobody ever imagined that these images would become gallery-worthy.

Along with the chalk drawings, the front room of the gallery features ink work and silkscreens, along with an embossed white on white series.

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Photo: TBD Gallery

The backside of the gallery has been transformed into a black light “fertility room” with colorful and vibrant paintings from Haring’s Fertility series, depicting some of his classic imagery: pregnant women, babies and very prominent penises.

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Photo: TBD Gallery

Local style icon Patricia Field also provided some of her limited edition Haring tee shirts and clutch bags, which are available for purchase at the gallery.

This reporter fondly remembers Haring, who always had a big smile to offer whenever we would bump into him at some of the favorite haunts of the time, including the Fun Gallery, the Mudd Club and the Palladium.

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Artifact from the Mudd Club. Photo: Lori Greenberg

As joyous as Haring’s work feels, the artist also tackled serious topics, including birth, death, sexuality and war.

Check out the video clip below which shows Haring creating some of his subway chalk drawings (and getting arrested). Clip is from the documentary, “The Universe of Keith Haring.”

The show is titled “05041958” for what would have been Haring’s 57th birthday and, accordingly, it runs until May 4. You can find out more on the gallery’s Facebook page.

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