graf·fi·ti | ɡrəˈfēdē | plural noun (singular graffito | -tō | ) [treated as singular or plural]
writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place: the walls were covered with graffiti | [as modifier] : a graffiti artist.
The New York art scene in the 1980s gave rise to some of America’s most talented artists. It was also a time that gave rise to the increased use of illegal drugs and the AIDS crisis.
Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat both bridged the gap between graffiti and fine art. They both began as struggling graffiti artists, both worked hard at their art and partied hard. They both became icons in the New York art world. They both died too young, yet each has left a legacy of great art and great hope.
Keith Haring 1958-1990
There is still time to see the Keith Haring exhibit at the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale.
Confrontation: Keith Haring and Pierre Alechinsky examines the influence that Alechinsky’s works had on the works of Haring.
Pierre Alechinsky is a Belgian artist who was a leading figure of the avant-garde CoBrA art movement that took hold after World War ll.
Keith Haring went to see an exhibit of Alechinsky’s work when he was just nineteen. The free-flowing, childlike images inspired Haring’s own works. Eventually, Haring was able to meet Alechinsky.
Alechinsky is 95. He lives and works in Paris. He wrote a about his meeting with Haring for the Keith Haring Foundation’s blog:
Keith Haring was 19 when he visited, in Pittsburgh, the retrospective of the fifty something I was becoming in 1977. Many years later, I was surprised to learn that this visit was for him «the reason» for a life choice: to become an artist.
Had he seen a sign of encouragement in some shape or color or line? Still, he introduced me into his biography. So much so that the staff of the Whitney Museum borrowed my painting Central Park (1965) from me for his retrospective in 1997. Twenty years earlier, the artist had been struck by the work at the Carnegie Museum of Art, my first with «marginal remarks». Keith had wanted that to be known.
Having become famous, he came to see me.
Studio visit in the company of an editor… whose name I have forgotten. Sometimes, often, now more and more, my memory is fading, as Jeanne Moreau sang in the sixties.
We are in 2022. I am ninety-five years old. My old brain tells me that it has just found a scrap of memory. On the port side: we recognize K.H. in P.A.’s workshop in Bougival in 1984. He offers a t-shirt decorated with his hand. To starboard: we see P.A. dedicating to K.H. a Chinese ink work on writings from another era.
Confrontation: Keith Haring and Pierre Alechinsky will be on exhibit at the NSU Art Museum through October 2, 2022.
Jean-Michel Basquiat 1960-1988
An exhibit of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work opened the Starrett-Lehigh Building in Chelsea on April 9th. King Pleasure was curated by Basquiat’s sisters, step mother and members of his extended family. The family would like him to be remembered as an artist, musician, poet, brother and son, and not just a Pop art idol.
The show includes more than 200 never-before and rarely-seen works, displayed in replicas of the Basquiat home, sprinkled with memorabilia from Basquiat’s childhood.
Basquiat began his career as a graffiti artist, rose to fame in the 1980s and died of a heroin overdose at age 27 in 1988.
John Thomason. Keith Haring, Under the Influence, at NSU Art Museum. Boca Magazine. April 15, 2022.
Kutztown University. Schwank, Kutztown University Announce Funding for Keith Haring Fitness Park. April 25, 2022.
Vittoria Benzine. ‘Badassery in Action.’: New Basquiat exhibit shows the man behind the mythology. Brooklyn Magazine. April 13, 2022.
Tessa Solomon. Listen to Basquiat’s Favorite Music With Spotify Playlists Curated for a New Immersive Exhibition. ArtNews. April 14, 2022.
Carl Swanson. A Basquiat Family Reunion The artist’s sisters have put on an exhibition of his work to remind the world where he came from — and have a party. New York Magazine/Curbed. April 11, 2022.