The Annual 2012

School of Visual Arts


Keith Haring

In April 2012, “Keith Haring: 1978–1982,” a lively and absorbing look at the SVA alumnus’s early work, opened at the Brooklyn Museum. Showcasing videos, journals, works on paper and photographs of Haring’s performances and street and subway graffiti, the exhibition illuminated the development of this quintessential—and still influential—New York artist.

Reviewing the show in the New York Times, critic Karen Rosenberg wrote:

Organized by the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati and the Kunsthalle Wien in Austria, this show includes equal quantities of works on paper and rarely seen archival objects (about 300 pieces in all). Also here are seven videos, a medium Haring took up as a student at the School of Visual Arts but later abandoned.

He shouldn’t have. He was great at it from the get-go. In his first video, “Painting Myself Into a Corner” (1979), a spry and shirtless Haring bops along to Devo as he works on a large drawing at his feet. He’s simultaneously a Bruce Nauman testing the limits of a confined space and a Jackson Pollock hovering over the floor. In “Phonics” and “Lick Fat Boys,” both from 1980, he plays games with language: breaking words into phonemes and rearranging them, physically with letters on a wall and orally by recitation.

These works sound dry but aren’t. Neither is “Tribute to Gloria Vanderbilt,” in which Haring makes eyes at — and eventually makes out with — the camera while dancing spastically to a New Wave beat. One of the little gems of the exhibition, this piece does double duty as a dig at oversexed advertisements for designer jeans and an exuberant expression of queer identity.

A Pop Shop for a New Generation: ‘Keith Haring: 1978-1982’ at Brooklyn Museum

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