Browsing the stacks at Rodney’s in Cambridge a few weeks ago, and stumbled upon Keith Haring, The Authorized Biography by John Gruen. It’s a an oral history with great photos and reproductions of Keith’s work, and it made me love Haring even more than I already did.
Inspired by the book and the voices within it, I hopped a train to NYC this past weekend and went looking for some of Keith’s remaining work around the city.
The Keith Haring Foundation: 676 Broadway
The site of Haring’s former studio (pretty sure the book cover photo was taken here) now houses The Keith Haring Foundation. The building was closed when I stopped by, but it was thrilling to see the painted walls from the stoop.
The Keith Haring Bathroom: 208 West 13th Street
NYC is the City of 8 Million Stories, this is the Bathroom of 8 Million Dicks. Located on the 2nd-floor of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, Keith painted this bathroom in 1989, just nine months before he passed from AIDS.
I asked the woman at the front desk about this room, and she said “let’s go,” and started up to the 2nd-floor. She unlocked the door and said “hang out as long as you like,” and boom she was gone, and I was alone in this small and quiet room. Just me and Keith and all these characters.
The New York Times called it “a joyful mural, born in a time of shame and fear.”
Carmine Street Pool: Clarkson Street & 7th Avenue
Even though it was sweltering on the Saturday I swung by, this Greenwich Village pool was closed, and the only life going on was in the giant mural. Painted by Keith in 1987.
‘Crack Is Wack’ Mural: East Harlem Drive at 128th Street
Caught my first glimpse of this handball court from a couple blocks away, and instantly got goosebumps. Originally painted in 1986, this 2-sided gem was restored in 2007.
From the book:
“When I discovered this wall, it was a handball court that was more or less abandoned and which didn’t have a fence around it. And because the wall looks like a big billboard on the highway, it’s perfect for a painting. As usual, I didn’t ask permission, and I just brought my ladders and paints and, within a day, I had painted this mural, Crack Is Wack.” – Keith Haring
Keith was fined $25 in 1986 for the illegal graffiti. Today, the mural is classified as a public monument, and the park is officially known as Crack Is Wack Playground by the NY Parks Department.
Keith Haring is very much alive in NYC, and everywhere else.