The best compliment that can be paid The Universe of Keith Haring, a straightforward, fast-moving documentary about the Pennsylvania phenom who made his way from New York City bohemia to the art world and transcended all to become one of the most recognizable names in popular graphics in the late 20th century, is that it is as inspiring at the level of a cinematic portrait as its subject was at the level of pure creation. As directed by newcomer Christina Clausen, the film looks to Haring as an artistic role model for his preternatural talent, of course, but also for his infectious lust for life that had him as committed to social activism and teaching children as to his latest painting.
For Haring, the world was a canvas. He is unique even among pop artists for seeing in everything–subways, cars, people–a potential surface for his bubbly cartoons of dancing, colliding, and frolicking figures (the most famous being his “Radiant Baby” character), a match between the motion of his message and the form of his expanded media that erased contrived boundaries dividing art as commodity from art as living and improvisational public presence. Clausen evokes Haring’s restless, ebullient spirit by tracing the artist’s life and times at a rapid but manageable pace, countering his insanely prolific output and growth by making Universe‘s structure and style–aside from zoom-ins on the eyes of interviewees as they are introduced to the viewer–at the service of a suitably conventional presentation.
Click here to read the rest of Michael Joshua Rowin’s review of The Universe of Keith Haring.