The recreation of a 1982 mural by Keith Haring on the corner of Houston and Bowery — the pink cyclops face graces the cover of the exhibition catalogue from his first solo show at the Pittsburgh Arts and Crafts Center, in 1978 — is being painted over today.
Commissioned by the Keith Haring Foundation, Deitch Projects, and Goldman Properties in 2008 in honor of what would have been the artist’s 50th birthday, the 50-foot mural cost $30,000 and took nearly 10 days to paint; years’ worth of graffiti was first scraped away to reveal the artist’s original design, which was painted by Haring and his companion Juan Dubose over the span of about 2 days in 1982 and covered up by Haring a few months later when the images began to fade. The tribute has remained in place for months longer than its scheduled December demo.
Remarkably, the mural has gone largely untouched by graffiti artists, a further tribute to the artist’s impact on the street art community both locally and worldwide. New Yorkers may recall a moment when the mural was altered, however. Last July, Angel Ortiz – once better known by his street handle, LA II – added his own touch to the piece by painting the black, linear free-forms and figures that occupy the yellow negative space on the wall. The act wasn’t as scandalous as it may sound: nearly 10 years younger, Ortiz was Haring’s protégé and “little brother” figure, as the artist referred to him as. The two met on the Lower East Side in 1980, when Ortiz introduced himself to Haring after hearing that the young artist – Haring was just 22 then – admired his graffiti.
A New York Times article from August 2008 detailed Ortiz’s contribution to the mural, as well as his struggle with obscurity, drug addiction, and crime after dropping out of high school. In a moment of irony not unlike those found in the history of the music business, Ortiz contends that he has been denied profits and licensing rights for his work with Haring, who treated him as an equal during their collaborations.
[Photo by Emahn Ray courtesy ANIMAL New York]