Alex Fialho: East Village. 1982. Art was in the streets, and graffiti was everywhere.
Graffiti culture was an important inspiration for Keith Haring. Haring has a very distinct visual language. The Angels, the dolphins, the UFOs, the running dogs. You see a Haring and you know it’s a Keith Haring, and I think that that’s inspired by the ways that he was seeing graffiti in the city.
Artist, Keith Haring: The war, quote-unquote, on graffiti hadn’t really begun yet. So it had been allowed to sort of blossom and turn into something amazing. A lot of it was done very similar to the way that I was thinking about drawing in that there was always an outline. The hard edge black line was the unifying thing that would tie the whole thing together.
Alex Fialho: The city was his canvas. Especially in the early 80s when he was in his early 20s. He would use the blank spaces of subway advertisements. They used to have blank black covers and he went around with chalk and would draw on these really quickly images like we see in this painting.
He would do dozens of subway drawings in a day. He would just jump on a subway car, jump off, do a drawing which at that point and still isn’t a legal thing to be doing, so he’d just quickly cartoon the sketch and then would jump back on the subway.
The East Village was a real centerpiece for a lot of creative expression because it was an inexpensive place to live but also the sort of harrowing context of New York in that moment with crack cocaine epidemic, the AIDS epidemic so there was a lot of pain Haring’s work really comes out of that space. It doesn’t ignore things like nuclear bombs and fighting but at the same time celebration is possible in his world. It really feels like a vision a vision of radiance, apocalypse the streets of New York what was possible.