Saturday, August 7, 2010

Stumbling into two Keith Harings, 3,600 miles apart

Yesterday, Jamie and I went to the Carmine Street swimming pool, now named after Tony Dapolito, a posthumous tribute to the old "Mayor of Greenwich Village", whose family owned the Vesuvio Bakery (recently closed, seemingly another victim of the economy). The unique thing about this little outdoor swimming pool is that its backdrop is a giant mural that was painted by Keith Haring in 1987, just three years before his death in 1990. The mural, long-since restored by the Keith Haring Foundation, is painted in yellow and turquoise, and full of his signature squiggle people swimming and dancing with jumping and dancing dolphins. I've always loved swimming in the shadow of this public works gem.

Early last week, we were walking through the Les Halles neighborhood in Paris and ducked into the Saint-Eustache Cathedral, a late Gothic structure where, supposedly, Louis XIV took communion and Mozart held his mother's funeral. I'd enjoyed six weeks of touring cathedrals up and down France, and in all of the paintings (Delacroix) and relics (St. Peter's bones) that we'd purportedly encountered, I was most surprised to find in a small side chapel, a triptych altar piece created by Keith Haring. Haring certainly created his share of artworks loaded with religious symbols, and most of it was cynical and dark. Often he illustrated the Apocalypse, illuminating the fear that the Catholic church instills in people to divert them from natural human desires. So what struck me about this piece was its complete lack of irony. There are people on each fold dancing and celebrating the birth of Christ, below Mary holding her newborn baby. It's almost like Haring wanted to make a distinction between the hypocritical beaurocracy of the church and its avatar.

I've enjoyed seeing Haring's work over the years randomly sprinkled through the pavement of the East Village. There is a little stairwell leading to a nail parlor around the corner on Second Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets that sports his circular patterns. Actually, the nail place has closed, and I hope whoever takes over the space doesn't rip out the concrete steps.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog entry. You may be interested in the same triptych altarpiece displayed in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine's Columba Chapel in NYC and the one in Grace Cathedral's Interfaith AIDS Memorial Chapel in San Francisco. Thanks for the tip on the East Village stairwell.