What is it about Keith Haring’s art that I have always loved? He was hitting his peak as an artist/street artist in the 70’s/early 80’s, so perhaps it is because, being born in 1976, his art was my introduction to graffiti as art. His designs were cartoonish, in bold colors, simplistic to the average person, and filled with motion. Haring’s work was not only accessible as art, but accessible by being licensed for TONS of products. Cynics could say he was “selling out”, but he believed in the democratization of art, frequently giving away free doodles to fans. Haring’s death in 1990 of AIDS-related illness is an important milestone in my life. His passing, along with Ryan White, turned me into an activist at a young age, constantly following the research and injustice of the early AIDS crisis. (FYI, this is just things I personally remember, not from any official source.)

This should explain why when Princeton University Press reached out to me with regards to reviewing a book about Keith Haring, I didn’t care what it was, I just wanted it! (Also, Princeton University Press, who’s the scholarly blogger?) The book they sent me (which I did know what it was going to be) was “Haring-isms” edited by Larry Warsh. It is part of Princeton’s “ISM” series, where they try to capture the essence of a variety of artists by collecting their quotations into high quality, pocket-sized, hardcover books. Along with “Haring-isms” you can find “Arsham-isms”, “Basquiat-isms”, “Weiwei-isms”, and more.

Editor Larry Warsh writes a personal and informative introduction to “Haring-isms.” After that, it is quote after wonderful quote. Here a just a few of my favorites:

It was a long time before I was successful – or wanted to be. All I ever wanted, and what I want now, is to draw, draw, draw.

I was never good at quite defining what is and what is not art. I mean, eventually everything can be art if we see it like art.

I think if people make art that is in tune with popular culture and comes from popular culture, they should put it back into that culture.

If I was going to draw, there had to be a reason. That reason, I decided, was for people.

Part of the reason that I’m not having trouble with the reality of death is that it’s not a limitation, in a way. It could have happened any time, and it is going to happen sometime. If you live your life according to that, death is irrelevant. Everything I’m doing right now is exactly what I want to do.

Each quote has a number so you can reference its source in the back of the book.

Obviously, I love “Haring-isms”. The only drawback is, other than the icon on the cover, none of Haring’s art is featured in it. I would easily pay twice the price to have these quotes along side images of some of his artwork. However, the lack of art keeps the book at a reasonable price point considering its high-quality formatting. If you’ve ever been inspired by Keith Haring, “Haring-isms” is for you.

Learn more here.

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