The Universe of Keith Haring

Some people find Keith Haring's cartoonlike art to be innocent, energetic, and inventive; I've always felt it to be antic, compulsive, and dehumanizing, but that didn't prevent me from appreciating this French-Italian documentary by Christine Clausen. It follows the scrawny, bespectacled artist from his childhood in small-town Pennsylvania to his stratospheric rise in the New York art scene to his untimely death from AIDS in 1990, focusing on the populist ethic that shaped both his style and his career. Inspired by the busy imagery of urban grafitti, Haring seemed obsessed with scrawling his faceless men and jagged dogs on every open space available, licensing his art for a panoply of clothing and personal items and, to the consternation of his business managers, endlessly obliging fans with free drawings. Footage of Haring at work shows an artist of insectile industry, though nothing uncovered in this adoring profile really explains what fed his fevered ego. 82 min.

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