3rd Floor

Keith Haring: Apocalypse

Collaborations with William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin

, 2018 – , 2019

Pace Prints is proud to announce Apocalypse, an exhibition of limited edition prints highlighting the collaborations between Keith Haring, William Burroughs and Brion Gysin at its 521 West 26th Street Gallery.  An opening reception will be held on Thursday, November 1, from 6-8pm. Please note that the exhibition has been extended through January 12.

From the very beginning of Keith Haring’s career, the influence of Beat Era poet and novelist William S. Burroughs (1914–1997) and artist Brion Gysin (1916–1986) was immense.  Haring’s first interaction with them came in 1978.  While a student at the School of Visual Arts, he happened upon the Nova Convention, a gathering of Beat poets and downtown artists, including Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Laurie Anderson, and Patti Smith.  After this introduction, Haring read and followed the exact methods laid out in Burroughs and Gysin’s 1977 book The Third Mind, which describes ways of breaking down language.  Theirs was the text-based foundation upon which Haring broke forward with his visual style in 1980, introducing his inimitable line to their “cut-up” method, and creating a form of pictorial communication that expanded beyond what ideas in traditional language could accomplish.

Haring often worked with other artists, writers, children and activists throughout his short but abundantly productive career.  Perhaps most meaningful were his collaborations with Burroughs and Gysin, the artists who influenced him first and most deeply, on three projects: Fault Lines, The Valley and Apocalypse.  In 1986, a few years after befriending both Gysin and Burroughs, Haring created his first and only collaboration with Brion Gysin, entitled Fault Lines.   This evocative artist book was created in an edition of 200.  Keith Haring saw in Gysin an artistic forebear; both in terms of artistic creativity and sexuality, and these themes are ever present in this book.  Sadly, Gysin passed away in 1986 during the production of the book.  Fault Lines is signed by Keith Haring and stamped by the Gysin Estate.

Featured prominently in the main gallery space, Apocalypse consists of ten pages of Burroughs’ text along with ten images by Haring.  It was created by both artists in 1988.  Haring’s work often touches on the paradoxical: life and death, religion and sexuality, heaven and hell, and political activism and conformity.  In fact, his two most cited works of influence are Dante’s Inferno and Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights.  These tropes become all the more prominent in his series with Burroughs.   With Burroughs’ free-form text, Haring appropriated and collaged symbols of mass consumerism, religion, art and advertisements upon which he created both imagery from his iconic vocabulary and stream-of-thought line.  1988 was the year that Haring was diagnosed with AIDS, though its effects on the New York downtown community had been present for years.  Computers, spermatozoa, devils, halos, divine light and radiance show the complexity, struggles, torment and illusory bliss of life at that very time.  Burroughs’ text pages, printed on acetate film, are written and segmented words that heighten the polemics of euphoria and fear, and are ever as relatable today, albeit for different reasons, as they were when written in 1988.

The Valley, on view in the side gallery, is a portfolio of thirty-one sheets, created based upon a chapter of text from Burroughs’ Western Lands.  This story, about people living in a crevasse knowing neither where they came from nor where they were going, is both absurd and relatable.  In April of 1989, Haring drew images for the portfolio onto copper plates in his studio, accompanying Burroughs’ text.  Burroughs hand-copied his text in script, onto sixteen sheets of tracing paper, which were photo-etched onto 10 x 9 inch copper plates and printed in red ink.  The works are beautifully presented in a red portfolio case.  This was the last collaboration the two did, as Haring died of AIDS in February of 1990. 

Archival materials on display include correspondence between the artists, as well as photographs, announcements and an inscribed copy of Western Lands.   Haring’s own hand-written journal, citing days with Burroughs and Gysin, show the background and relationships from which these works were created.  All materials are from the Keith Haring Foundation Archive.

On view in the small project room, with limited viewing hours of 12-2pm Tuesday-Saturday, is Brion Gysin’s Dream Machine, from Keith Haring’s collection; a work he received from Gysin.  Viewers are invited to sit in front of the machine, close their eyes, and experience the mysticism and conscious-expanding experience of Gysin’s creation.

Pace Prints is the Keith Haring Foundation’s representative for editions and small-scale multiples.  The Keith Haring Foundation was established by Haring in 1989 to ensure that his philanthropic and artistic legacy would continue indefinitely.  The mission of the Keith Haring Foundation is to sustain, expand and protect the legacy of Keith Haring, his art and his ideals.  The Foundation supports not-for-profit organizations that assist children, as well as organizations involved in education, research and care related to AIDS.

Keith Haring was born on May 4, 1958 in Reading, PA.  In his years in New York, he found a thriving alternative art community developing outside of the gallery and museum system, with events and exhibitions taking place in the downtown streets, subways and nightclubs.  In 1990, at the age of 31, Keith Haring died of AIDS-related illnesses in New York.  Since his death, his work has been the subject of several international retrospectives.  He is in major private and public collections including The Museum of Modern Art; The Whitney Museum of American Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Art Institute of Chicago; The Bass Museum, Miami; Centre Georges Pompidou and Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris; Ludwig Museum, Cologne; and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, among others. 
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