Contemporary Art

Notes from the Keith Haring Foundation Archive

By Anna Gurton-Wachter

T he Keith Haring Foundation Archives maintains the most comprehensive collection of materials relating to the artist Keith Haring and his legacy. Materials include videos, journals, press clippings, mix tapes, invitations and flyers, photographs, interviews and more. The archive facilitates research and preserves a record of both Keith Haring and the communities he participated in. Haring made a number of videos while he was studying at The School of Visual Arts in New York where he studied with Keith Sonnier, Barbara Buckner, Lucio Pozzi and Joseph Kosuth. Haring’s arrival in New York City was active and exploratory. He met many of his friends and collaborators early on including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf and Tseng Kwong Chi as well as many graffiti artists and DJs that would influence his artistic practice. Two of Haring’s video works can be seen below: “Environments” (December 1978) and “Tribute to Gloria Vanderbilt” (May 1980).

Keith Haring's handwritten journal. Courtesy of the Keith Haring Foundation Archives.

In this page from Haring’s handwritten journals from December 1978 he writes,

“As I learn more or understand more about art history, about science/nature, about myself I am becoming more aware of what I am doing and why. That is my main question right now—why? Questioning this is helping me to continue at a growing pace, at the same time thinking and inevitably doing more interesting work. My constant association with writers, dancers, actors, musicians forces me to compose my intentions/concerns with theirs. I share the same concerns for space and movement and structure as contemporary dancers. I consider spontaneity, improvisation, continuity and harmony as musicians. I feel a common bond with theatre and performers as I do “painting as performance” (video tapes), I share visual concerns with filmmakers, I feel as though the arts have all gravitated to a central plane on which we all operate. The same (or similar) concerns apply to all of the arts.”
Keith Haring's To-Do List. Courtesy of the Keith Haring Foundation Archives.

In one of Haring’s many To-Do lists from 1988 the wide range of activities that Haring was working on at any given time can be seen all on one page. Haring was known to make a daily To-Do list in order to tackle the day’s goals. This one shows him setting up talks to give at universities, collaborative artworks with William Burroughs and Bill T. Jones (here referenced as the Body and Soul set and costume design) making artwork for non profits like the NYC Ballet and the Philharmonic or for causes that he cared about like AIDS Discrimination Logo or the coin box in the Paris airport that went to support youth in need, working on making his art accessible through jackets and jumpsuits, as well as calling people like Yoko Ono and Roy Lichtenstein.

Watch Keith Haring's Tribute to Gloria Vandrbilt and Environments

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