It’s hard to put a finger on Keith Haring’s genius. His specialty, to an untrained eye, is simple and seemingly uncomplicated shapes, forms, colors and lines. Part of what’s so remarkable about Haring is how organically his art went from simple graffiti scribbles in New York City’s underground—stuff that was meant to be temporary, low-brow and of the people—to works on canvas being an integral part of permanent collections in the finest museums in the world. For a Reading, PA boy with three sisters and a cartoonist father who briefly attended The Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh, it’s a miracle that Haring’s legacy is still enriching generations of humans across the globe.
There’s a vitality that glows from his Radiant Baby, a trademark image he started spreading around subway stations before the ‘80s had arrived. Soon after, he started a long-term successful collaboration with a space called Club 57, a nightclub (at the time) at 57 St. Mark’s Place, where he started regularly associating with Kenny Scharf, Madonna, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. Certainly, Haring was inspired in this environment and in New York City, then a wildly different city than it is today. Because shortly after these first few years in New York, his art started taking off in terms of notoriety and acclaim, and he started getting commissioned internationally.
Obviously, the real tragedy is that he’s gone, and that he left us at the tender age of 31, just as he was hitting his stride as an artist. Haring was a homo who liked to have fun, and he was dangerously positioned at the dawn of the age of HIV and AIDS. His work often portrayed sex, but he was always a safe sex advocate; he wasn’t a vulgar artist, and his visuals very often conveyed messages of hope, unity and love. Plus, he coined and popularized succinct phrases that became inspiring and iconic statements you can find on Urban Outfitter t-shirts, which continue to serve as a tool of empowerment and self-respect: “Crack is Whack” and “Silence = Death.” Haring often strived to put his art in places that needed a boost, under-served and struggling communities that could use a reminder that to be alive is a gift and to participate in the human experience requires compassion and empathy. Which is why it’s no surprise that we have, right here in Philadelphia, one of the most treasured works in the Haring oeuvre.
His “We The Youth” mural, located on the side of a house at the corner of 22nd and Ellsworth, is one-of-a-kind. It is the only surviving collaborative public mural to remain in its original site, the wonderful product of a team-up with Brandywine Workshop and the CityKids Foundation of New York. And at the beginning of November, the Mural Arts Project is poised to grandly reveal an ongoing and meticulous restoration of the legendary mural. Haring’s work, be it a mural, collage, sketch, painting or installation, appears in esteemed museums beyond our borders (the MOMA and Whitney, the Art Institute of Chicago, the LA County Museum of Art, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, to name a few), and by some small miracle, we’ve got a big, beautiful vestige of his legacy out in the open for consumption, without an admission fee or a dress code, right in Graduate Hospital.
Established by the artist himself in 1989, the Keith Haring Foundation “perpetuates Haring’s artistic and philanthropic legacy through the preservation and circulation of his artwork and archives, and by providing grants to children in need and those affected by HIV/AIDS.” It’s clear that Haring thought critically and seriously about how to let his artwork continue to serve humanity in his absence. He wasn’t a stranger to commodification and didn’t resist it because he saw the potential in letting affordable miniatures of his work allow broader access to art – not just rich people could collect him. His Pop Shops were a revelation, and his success at the time allowed him to commodify his work on his own terms. “Here’s the philosophy behind the Pop Shop,” Haring declared. “I wanted to continue the same sort of communication as with the subway drawings. I wanted to attract the same wide range of people, and I wanted it to be a place where, yes, not only collectors could come, but also kids from the Bronx … this was still an art statement.”
So, do yourself a favor: Check out the excellent 2008 documentary (on Netflix) called The Universe of Keith Haring by filmmaker Christina Clause, and get yourself to the grand reveal of the touched-up “We The Youth” mural next Sat., Nov. 2, at 1pm.
When I lived in Brooklyn, I made it to the Flea once. There were bikes of all shades and colors, cool jewelry (I bought some Erica Weiner stuff), furniture that made me daydream of the budget and apartment I’d one day have, oh and food. And drink. Pretty sure I had a bangin’ pink lemonade. I never thought the spot was so organized that it could up and declare a new location. Like Philly. But on June 2nd, a Sunday, the Brooklyn Flea arrives at the Piazza. The five-year-old successful flea market will have its first weekend in the Jared Kushner-bought Bart Blatstein monstrosity in just a few short weeks.
Kushner’s the husband of Ivanka Trump, and he owns the New York Observer. He’s teamed up with Flea co-founder Jonathan Butler and Eric Demby to bring their model to a Philly space, their first moment of expansion. We’re hoping it’s a continuation of a trend; seems like New York’s finally seeing the beauty of our fair city. In the not-too-distant past we’ve seen stuff like 3rd Ward, SuitSupply, Joe Coffee and, wait, is that Uniglo coming to Philadelphia? Man, it’s awesome.
Here’s the rundown on the Philly Flea: It’s a curated shopping and food experience for your Sunday morning and afternoon in Northern Liberties, and it launches on June 2. There are limited spots, a fee, an application process, and the powers that be pick and choose to achieve a blissful mix of art, furniture, vintage, modern, crafty, handmade, prefab and mad food. (Among the vendors slated are Philadelphia Salvage, Three Potato Four, At Home Modern, Peg & Awl and Forage Haberdashery.) Brooklyn Flea’s been a fertile starting place for dozens of businesses looking to start small, build clientele and create a name for itself before moving into a brick-and-mortar location. No doubt that’ll happen in our Philly locale, and it’s exciting to see which startups will get the green light from the Philly Flea team.
The Piazza’s one weird space. But did you know that it can contain nearly 8,000 people? There’s no other space within a short radius of Center City that can so easily and professionally host such an excellent collection of vending tables and tents. There’ve been maybe a dozen businesses that have come and gone since Blatstein cut some deals for cheap rent in the piazza’s youth, a result of a number of factors, no doubt. Personally, I have no desire to dine at a place like Gunner’s Run (again). But when the Flea’s chosen food vendors populate the Brooklyn Philly Flea, they’ll pretty easily become the most solid eats outside of the dependable Bar Ferdinand and El Camino Real that will neighbor the flea (and benefit handily).
It’s just good all around: New York expanding to Philadelphia, sophistication in the form of curated shopping, a thing to do every weekend and a revitalization of one weird, underused space. Starting in June, you’ve got a good reason to head up, if nothing else for a good place to stroll with a coffee in hand and peruse high-to-low-end goods and art. Plus there’s like a 1000-percent guarantee that some cuties’ll be shoppin’ too.
Also, one quick note about the Flea’s June 2 opener: Since it’s the day after the sure-to-be-bangin’ Roots Picnic, call it the official “Roots Family Post Picnic Brunch,” ’cause according to insiders, Questlove and a slew of other dope local DJ are set to rock the Piazza stage.
I got a rare opportunity today. Disclaimer: my friend, Jestis Deuerlein, is going to be a major player in this exciting cultural movement coming to Northern Liberties. She’s going to be helming some event planning and has a ton of infectious enthusiasm about the space, what’s going to go down there and how so many Philadelphians are going to reap the boundless potential of this incredibly multi-functioning space. Before I get down to the virtual tour, feel free to do a little reading up on exactly what 3rd Ward is. Here’s the two-second version of what they do from the horse’s mouth:
“3rd Ward is a multi-disciplinary workspace and education center. Here, you can take advantage of our Wood Shop, Metal Shop, Photo Studios, Jewelry Studios and Coworking Space, as well as learn new skills in one of our many classes. Whether you’re a beginner looking for a creative outlet, or a seasoned professional in search of a full-time workspace solution, 3rd Ward can help.”
And they’re bringing this spirit of creativity and community to Philadelphia in a matter of months. We won’t try to name a date at this time but you can bet you’ll be kept abreast of the space’s grand opening (almost definitely with a big, fat party).
For one, as a music journalist, I’m pumped about this as a space for dance parties, music events, performances and art parties. There will basically be two performance/event spaces; one on the first and one on the second floor which extends out onto an open-air roof-top deck. The third floor is a sickeningly sprawling and beautiful co-work space, but more on that later.
This is a pretty odd neighborhood, let’s be real. I used to live over here. Just a few blocks north of Girard and west of Front isn’t what you’d call a vibrant or distinct neighborhood. Sure, there’s a bunch of great things in this odd mix of Northern Liberties, Fishtown, Kensington and North Philly: the robust strip of 2nd Street between Girard and Spring Garden, the newly-bustling Super Fresh, and stuff like Johnny Brenda’s, Kung Fu Necktie, El Bar and Fishtown Tavern. This is all to say ‘This space is going to do good by lots of people, including the neighborhood.’
So let’s start at the ground floor. The two main entrances will open up to a big combo restuarant/cafe/performance/art show space (above, left) and to a reception-y welcome center. Curious about the restaurant space? Check out Stone Park Cafe in Brooklyn – they’ll be related. In the back is a massive metal and wood shop. The cafe space will also feature loads of outdoor seating, perfect for its slated summer opening. The second floor is a home for a handful of classroomy spaces including what will be a huge work kitchen, and, perhaps the crown jewel of this whole endeavor, a lovely small/mid-sized outdoor patio (above, right) with room for a projection wall, maybe a small bar, a DJ booth and around 100 people. I can already see the artsy folk in their shorts and sun dresses mingling under the stars.
Upstairs, on the top and third floor, is one of the biggest and most beautiful co-op/co-work spaces I’ve ever seen. This puts the Flavorpill office in SoHo where I interned five years ago to shame. Beautifully restored finishes and wood floors, endless snaking cubicles and phone call booths will make this one whacky-ass floor full of people looking for a home base for their young company or their freelancing needs. As our economy still figures out what’s going on and young folks are smacked in the face with the reality that freelancing is the future, not staff jobs, it’s possible this space will be a bustling and thriving epicenter of Philadelphia’s already-strong-but-still-blossoming intellectual and literary culture. Not to mention all the artists/crafters/designers/printers/tech nerds that’ll benefit from work spaces and opportunites to get their work seen (and bought).
The space is freakin’ 27,000 square feet. PW will definitely be keeping an eye on the opening, the class and events lineup and welcome newly-hired members of a powerful 3rd Ward team.
Want to make a Philadelphia community cooler with something artistic, but don’t have the funding for turn your idea into reality? The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is throwing down $9 million worth of investment via its Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia, which launched a couple years ago with the sole purpose of helping Philadelphia artists, businesses, and organizations to enrich their neighborhoods through innovative creativity. Back in 2010, the Challenge supported photographer Zoe Strauss’ I-95 project; with 71 projects funded already and $5.4 million dollars awarded, there’s no reason you shouldn’t give it a shot too. No idea is too big or small, and you don’t have to have the art-world reputation of a Strauss to apply. You do have to think fast, though: The application deadline for the third round of proposals is only two and a half weeks away on October 15. May the best ideas win! — CAROLINE NEWTON
The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s newest exhibition, Visions of Arcadia, is opening in less than a week and if you are in need of a harmonious and mystical escape, look no further and head straight for the parkway. Filled with idyllic scenes of paradise, the exhibition features works from modern masters including Gaugin, Matisse and Cézanne, all of which are sure to leave you with peaceful vibes and sweet dreams. It is my honest belief that you don’t need to be an art history geek like me to appreciate Cezanne’s The Large Bathers so much that it can make any dreary day seem brighter.
In wonderful celebration of all things Arcadian, Arcadia Boutique is giving away two free VIP passes to the exhibition. To enter, all you have to do is make a purchase, either online or in-store, and you’ll automatically be entered for a chance to win. Shopping in a varied sea of prints, silhouettes and unique jewelry to win these passes doesn’t seem like such a bad deal- but if you want in, make sure to act quick as this Sunday is your last chance to be entered.
Here are my favorites from Arcadia’s online shop:
The main motivation of an artist? To have people see their art, and the options are endless, but some just seem to hit the core of art right in the kisser more than others. Like the company Jondo, in LA, set out to democratize art, they’ve created 26museum-quality prints that they’ve distributed through the city in various hidden locations. Your prize if you find them? You get to take it. Really. No strings attached. Much like Portland’s brilliant yellow bike-borrow system, this is yet another thing we need to copy. Get on it Philly!
It’s First Friday and you know what that means. Lots of stuff going on! But perhaps the most interesting is the installation, PERFECT STRANGERS, opening at Old City boutique Reward featuring the work of local artist Andy Rementer. I’ll let the Facebook invite take it from here:
‘Andy Rementer is a Philadelphia-based cartoonist, illustrator, and animator. His work has been featured through a variety of sources including MTV, Urban Outfitters, Nylon Magazine, Warner Brothers, The New York Times, and Creative Review. He has exhibited his work in group shows throughout America, Europe and Australia, and we are so super excited to host him for a solo exhibition here at Reward.’
The event runs from 6-9pm and there will be refreshments courtesy of Narragansett and tunes courtesy of The Magic Message DJs.
Also – there will be works up for purchase in addition to $5 zines made just for the event and other free giveaways to the first attendees. And if you’re in the mood for some fashionz, Reward is probably of the best places we can think to do so in this city. So, get thee to 2nd Street!
Reward is located at 55 N. 2nd Street in Philadelphia. www.rewardproject.com