Reviewed by Natasha Larimer
The thing that made Keith Haring’s art so appealing to me as a teenager thirty-some years ago, I’m unashamed to say, is what makes his work so appealing to children today. Haring’s art is direct, bold, colorful and untitled. He empowered the viewer to comprehend what they were seeing and its significance. And perhaps most of all, Haring’s images of dogs, breakdancers, aliens, superheroes, and his iconic crawling baby were accessible. They appeared in ads, on subway tiles, and in urban murals (including one in South Philadelphia). Haring believed in the power of exposing children to art and did installations at children’s hospitals, held collaborative projects with children, and was known to have doodled on skateboards, sneakers, and t-shirts belonging to young admirers.
Joyfully and aptly presented in picture-book form, Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing (Dial Books) recounts Haring’s boyhood in Pennsylvania, his love for drawing even at an early age, his response to criticism, and his maturing insistence on art’s availability and importance to all. Kay Haring – the artist’s younger sister – lovingly tells this biography with brilliant illustrations by Robert Neubecker, who incorporates some of Haring’s art along the way (all carefully cited in the back of the book).
Haring’s eventual integration of community and social activism into both his design and mission is gently presented herein, making The Boy not only the inspirational story of a genuinely good guy who made it big, but a sophisticated introduction to pop art.
Natasha Larimer holds a Ph.D. in American History from the University of Wisconsin. She makes her home in Mt. Airy with her husband and two children.