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Review by Todd Franson
Rating: (4 out of 5)
Saturday, 10/25/2008, 2:00 PM
Feature presentation, $10 at Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Center for the Arts
KEITH HARING WAS more than just another young artist lost to AIDS. Haring’s bold, graphic style epitomized the ’80s and could very well be written off as just another plastic product from a plastic-driven era. Luckily there was more to his art than his simple style belied, and now 18 years after his death, re-evaluation finds Haring to be much more than a mere ’80s pop confection. Everyone had a ”glow baby” button or T-shirt, but what did it mean?
Though it doesn’t expand the documentary genre, The Universe of Keith Haring is a solid, informative, well-made exploration of Haring and his world that will garner new appreciation for his art and his influence on the culture during a time of gay sexual liberation, as well as a time of great tragedy. Incorporating archival interview footage of Haring telling his own story (to biographer John Gruen) with contemporary material from his remaining circle of friends — Kenny Scharf, Bill T. Jones, Anne Magnuson, Junior Vasquez, Yoko Ono, Madonna, Fab Five Freddy — as well as many notable gallery owners and his family, Universe director Christina Clausen comprehensively chronicles the artist’s early life, development of his unique style, its underlying meaning, his rise to international stardom and his untimely death.
Surprisingly, the most insightful evaluation of Haring’s artistic objective comes from close friend Yoko Ono. She also supplies the weirdest memorial tribute, depositing some of his remains — at Haring’s spiritual direction, she says, ”ghosts and spirits whisper to me” — while driving through Paris. Definitely worth the price of admission.