Subscribe to The Horn Book

Review of Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing

haring_keith haringKeith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing
by Kay A. Haring; illus. by Robert Neubecker
Primary    Dial    40 pp.
2/17    978-0-525-42819-0    $16.99    g

As an upbeat narrative chronicles pop artist Haring’s childhood, early adulthood, and brief but momentous career, our subject faces relentless questions from onlookers confused by his free-spirited artistic habits, ideals, and style. “WHY did you doodle on this important paper?” from a teacher in elementary school. “WHY didn’t you take the money?” after teenage Keith gives a piece away for free. “WHY are you drawing pictures that look like scrambled bodies? This is not what we told you to draw” in art school. After each “WHY?” is shrugged off (“Keith knew how to draw. He just wanted to draw in different ways”), a refrain repeats: Keith “just kept drawing.” This laudatory biography, written by Haring’s sister, is guided by his unapologetic rejection of artistic pretension and illustrated in — what else? — a friendly and accessible cartoony style that fluidly integrates Haring’s own work on subway cars and buildings, as well as in galleries. Neubecker’s illustrations solidly build settings, many of which are quintessential 1980s NYC art scenes populated by eclectic characters in punk garb sporting edgy ’dos. While the book’s messages regarding equal access to art, art’s healing powers, and a general acceptance of otherness are loud and clear, this directness is shared by (to quote the informative endnote) a “universally recognizable visual language” in Haring’s art, the wide appeal of which is grounded in “relevant subject matter and straightforward line.” An intimate-feeling author’s note and an illustrated index to art by Haring and others in the book are appended.

From the March/April 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Save

Katrina Hedeen About Katrina Hedeen

Katrina Hedeen is associate editor of The Horn Book Guide and manager of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards.

Share
Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*