In collaboration with Tate Liverpool, Soul Jazz Records are releasing this stunning new collection entitled ‘The World of Keith Haring’ featuring music influential to the artist KEITH HARING including Fab 5 Freddy, Yoko Ono, Gray (Jean-Michel Basquiat’s group), The Jonzun Crew, Larry Levan, Talking Heads, Sylvester, Johnny Dynell and many others.
‘The World of Keith Haring’ is released to coincide with the presentation of the first major exhibition in the UK of Keith Haring’s work at Tate Liverpool on now and which runs until November 10th.
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Haring’s many friends and collaborators included Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Madonna, Fab 5 Freddy, William Burroughs, Jenny Holzer, Yoko Ono, Bill T Jones, Larry Levan, Timothy Leary, Futura 2000. If you were looking for a person to guide you through the wide variety of nightclub scenes of downtown New York in the 1980s, then Keith Haring would have been your man.
Keith Haring was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1988 and died at the age of 31 on February 16, 1990. During his short time on the planet his work featured in over 100 solo and group exhibitions across the world and was seen on subways, in public spaces, on club flyers and consumer products.
Keith Haring was one of the key members of a group of New York-based artists who redefined the boundaries of modern art in the 1980s. Like his friends, including the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and graffiti artists Fab 5 Freddy, Lee Quiñones and LA II, Haring helped first bring the aesthetics of graffiti and street art to New York’s downtown; into both the fine art world, with his own shows at the Shafrazi Gallery and Patti Astor’s Fun Gallery, as well as into the alternative punk and new wave club scene, curating art shows at spaces like Club 57 and the infamous Mudd Club.
During this time the art and music worlds of downtown New York, especially that of the East Village, were colliding as the musical boundary lines between punk rock, dance music and hip-hop also blurred. Musicians were also artists, film-makers or actors. Artists formed bands and music was art. This was the world of Keith Haring’s New York; a collaborative world where the numerous artists he worked with were also friends, all inhabiting the same fertile, febrile and creative world of New York City in the 1980s.
Music played a central role in the creation of Haring’s art. In 1981 Keith Haring, Fab 5 Freddy and Futura 2000 organised ‘Beyond Words,’ the first downtown graffiti show on the top floor of the Mudd Clubb, with Afrika Bambaataa DJing at the opening, while downstairs the sounds of spiky punk/dance music played to a dancefloor populated with New York’s new punk and no wave glitterati – David Byrne, Deborah Harry, The Contortions et al – who mixed with poor East Village aspiring artists and Studio 54 celebrities like Andy Warhol, Grace Jones and David Bowie.
At his early solo art shows Haring hired break-dancers and DJs (including his partner Juan Dubose) to play at gallery openings. As hip-hop and electro exploded into the world, body-popping and electro boogie-ing characters also populated Haring’s paintings with much of the kinetic energy of his work part inspired by the dancefloor and street moves of B-Boys and B-Girls.
But the decisive moment in creating Haring’s musical tastes and inspiration came with a chance discovering of the Paradise Garage one night in 1984 while walking through the streets of the West Village with his friend Fab 5 Freddy. As Haring told biographer John Gruen:
‘I have never been the same since I walked into Paradise Garage … The music was phenomenal – Larry Levan was the DJ there and he was like a god in the DJ booth. I was totally mesmerized.’
Haring fell in love with the Paradise Garage, creating large scale artworks and flyers for the club, flying home from his exhibitions around the world to religiously attend Saturday nights there. Haring became friends with Larry Levan and in 1984 he put on his own Party of Life at the Garage with DJs Levan and Juan Dubose, and live appearances from his friends John Sex and the then-unknown singer Madonna.
By the second half of the 1980s Haring was spending more and more time away from New York and working in Europe. Despite this he remained connected to New York’s dance culture at all times through a constant stream of cassette mixtapes that he would listen to while working. These mixtapes were supplied by friends and lovers such as Jean Dubose and Gil Vazquez and playlists from the likes of Larry Levan, Frankie Knuckles and Junior Vasquez.