New York

Keith Haring

Tony Shafrazi Gallery

Keith Haring is probably the most brilliant populist artist now working. What this means is not only that his imagery and style are derived from popular culture but that his intention—to reach the widest possible audience—is popular. This can be tricky, especially if one wants to have a high-art aura, for in order to reach the broadest audience one’s style must tend toward lowest-common-denominator configurations, at once instantly recognizable and comprehensible. But high art is by definition exclusionary; in a sense, it is more likely to be an oppositional art than a popular one, for it implicitly insists on an absolute perspective. Popular art, which often mocks this perspective by insisting upon laissez-faire (less politely, anything goes), offers instead an inconsistent series of topical, relative viewpoints.

The best way to understand Haring’s attempt to reconcile these differences

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