Van de Weghe Fine Art is pleased to present an exhibition of Keith Haring’s “Tarp” paintings during the summer of 2002.
Haring began using a vinyl or muslin tarpaulin (“tarp”) as a surface for his techno-primitive Pop imagery circa 1981-1982. At about the same time, he began his famous Subway Drawings – white chalk on black paper posted over expired advertisements on the subway platforms.
The artist was strongly influenced by the expanding field of art in the early ‘80s. Installation, performance, graffiti art and video in non-conventional or alternative venues like the East Village Club 57 and Mudd Club were his introduction to the art scene in New York, and he enthusiastically embraced this populist conception. As he wrote in Flash Art in 1984, “Art lives through the imaginations of the people who are seeing it. Without that contact, there is no art.”
Haring painted his trademark imagery on photo-backdrop paper, statues, terra cotta vases, human bodies, detritus from the street and the street itself, only beginning to use traditional canvas circa 1985. Painting on tarpaulin was a way of carrying this “alternative” pop sensibility into important ‘80s galleries like Leo Castelli and Tony Shafrazi.
Unlike traditional canvases, the tarps are not stretched but hung via grommets sewn into the fabric of the painted surface, providing for a continuous expanse of canvas on a monumental scale while retaining the popular dimension so important to Haring.
This exhibition will focus on large-scale paintings and include works as big as 10 x 15 feet. Indeed, scale was also an important element for Keith Haring. During his ten-year career, sadly ending with the artist’s death of AIDS in February 1990, the artist painted well over fifty murals and similar projects in more than twenty-five cities. Haring loved such life-size and larger projects – whether private commissions, children’s workshops, or collaborations with other artists such as Jenny Holzer or LA II – because they could reach so many “imaginations”.
The “Tarps” exhibited here, whose imagery ranges from signature icons like the Radiant Baby to pattern to portrait (including a portrait of Grace Jones whose body Haring painted several times), show how exuberantly Haring sought to celebrate humanity.