Why Keith Haring Made Me Question My Job

You’ll come to learn that I write about art a lot –– it’s always been a big source of inspiration for my work. I even flirted with the idea of studying Art History in college, but ended up going into Political Science and Journalism.

On a rainy San Francisco afternoon, I stopped by the breathtaking De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco to take a look at the Keith Haring exhibit, and wow it was incredible!

Prior to the exhibit, I was not well-versed in his body of work. Sure, I knew Andy Warhol was his mentor and that he was a revolutionary in the pop art world, but I didn’t know the intricacy of the underlying social messages that really defined who he was as an artist. His main topics honed in on consumerism, capitalism, sexuality, race, and war. The result? A visual feast for the eyes –– saturated neons that are so bright you almost have to look away, dots and lines that play tricks on your mind, tarp that spans so tall and wide you question how one person managed to paint the whole piece, tattooed statues, and more phallic illustrations than I ever needed to see.

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       Moses and the Burning Bush

The entire experience left me inspired and intrigued to know more about this man, who died at a mere 31 years old due to AIDS, despite being a huge proponent of safe sex. One can only imagine the pieces he would have created later in life. It’s hard to wrap your mind around the sheer quantity of work he was able to accomplish in such a short time. The world was his medium –– subway signs, pots, tarps, canvas, chalk boards, anything Keith could get his hands on he made his mark. He made New York City his.

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The most interesting part of the whole experience were the thoughts that came to me after seeing the entire exhibition. He had a distaste for mass media, technology, and consumerism saying, “The silicon computer chip has become the new life form. Eventually the only worth of man will be to serve the computer. Are we there?In a lot of ways we are.” As someone who works in the digital space, this triggered many existential thoughts about what I am doing with my life.

How would Keith have adapted to our reliance on technology? The intensity of mass media? The gluttony of consumerism that is 2014? Our reliance on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook — and the way huge corporations and governments are using it to their advantage. I mean, look what’s happened with the Sony hackers and The Interview.

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  Andy Mouse

What my friends and I found the most hysterical is that after taking this moving journey through Keith’s life, you’re forced to walk through a densely populated gift shop full of Keith Haring memorabilia. Playing cards, coffee mugs, mementos galore! As a slave to consumerism, I found my self pondering the purchase of a mug and a hardback coffee table book. Then I thought, holy shit –– this is exactly what Keith WOULDN’T want me to do! He would want me to reflect on his work and use it as a motivator. So I unwillingly put down my beloved items and left only with my thoughts.

 

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