New York City, 1978 © Alex Razbash
RADAR

Steven Zultanski

Poetry For Keith Haring

We asked fellow New Yorker Chris Kraus (Love Dick) to commission original pieces by 5 poets in response to the artist Keith Haring and his iconic work. You can read all 5 poems in the free visitor guide which you can pick up at our Keith Haring exhibition. Or read them right here...


Steven Zultanski
Loop for Keith Haring

What I love in Haring’s work is its directness of statement: when he wants to bring attention to the AIDS crisis, he just does; when he wants to condemn apartheid, he just does; when he wants to paint Reagan as a murderous pig, he just does. It’s not likely that anyone would be confused about his political positions: the paintings are unambiguously angry at racial and sexual injustice. But this anger is at once eclipsed by an excessive joy that can be seen in the work’s incessant motion—a celebration of the vibrancy of life, collective ecstasy, and the radiance of love.  

What I love in Haring’s work is its directness of statement: when he wants to celebrate the vibrancy of life, he just does; when he wants to represent the collective ecstasy of dancing, he just does; when he wants to evoke the radiance of love, he just does. It’s not likely that anyone would fail to see his enthusiasm: the paintings are unambiguously overflowing with vitalist glee. But this vitality is at once eclipsed by an underlying terror that can be seen in the work’s incessant motion—an acknowledgement of existential fear, the body’s instability, and psychic uncertainty.

What I love in Haring’s work is its directness of statement: when he wants to hint at existential fear, he just does; when he wants to illustrate the body’s instability, he just does; when he wants to conjure the shakiness of psychic uncertainty, he just does. It’s not likely that anyone would overlook his anxiety: the paintings are unambiguously filled with trembling bodies, hearts about to burst, and figures trapped in inscrutable, maze-like landscapes. But this anxiousness is at once eclipsed by a faith in fantasy that can be seen in the work’s incessant motion—an idealization of the imagination, the mingling of bodies, and the impossible brightness of the world.

What I love in Haring’s work is its directness of statement: when he wants to invent strange creatures, he just does; when he wants to romanticize the mingling of bodies, he just does; when he wants to paint an impossibly bright world, he just does. It’s not likely that anyone would mistake his curved lines for drab description: the paintings unambiguously emerge from fantasy; they spring from intuition and dream. But this embrace of the fantastic is at once eclipsed by a political stridency that can be seen in—

     I feel like a squeezed tomato—
     full heart, bad sleep, head dangling from a broken neck—         no words for how I feel—
     head leaking juice, spurting juice, juice
     running down my arm—
     slippery little yellow seeds clinging to my fingers.

 

Steven Zultanski © Rights reserved
Steven Zultanski © Rights reserved

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