You used to be able to see Keith Haring’s art just by ducking into the subway — now all you have to do is catch a ferry to Governors Island. Not only are photos of the East Village legend’s subway squiggles on display at an exhibit of downtown public art, but you can also peep this Haring hologram.
The latter is located in the Center for the Holographic Arts’ summer pop-up, the Holocenter House, inside of one of the stately 19th century officers homes that surround grassy Nolan Park. A trip inside this historic building (#4B) would be worth the price of admission (free, though donations are rewarded with holographic stickers) even if it weren’t stocked with cool art like Holocenter co-founder Ana Maria Nicholson’s 3-D portraits of Tony Bennet and Walter Cronkite. She did the Haring one back when she had a studio at the now defunct Museum of Holography in Soho. Unlike countless other tributes to Haring, Basquiat and Warhol, the subject actually sat for this one, as recounted in the August 31, 1987 issue of New York magazine.
By the time Nicholson took Haring’s portrait (“in a few nanoseconds with a ruby pulse laser on a holographic film,” the Holocenter informs), he had already painted his famous “Crack Is Wack” mural and other iconic works, though he hadn’t yet left his mark on the walls of the LGBT Community Center or created the self-portrait that’s now on Astor Place. But an exhibit over at Building 110 shows how Haring got his start in the early 80s.
This summer, the former army warehouse that’s currently home to the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Arts Center at Governors Island is hosting “(Counter) Public Art, Intervention & Performance in Lower Manhattan From 1978-1993.” The title refers to Michael Warner’s concept of “counterpublics,” i.e. “communities that form around relationships in conflict with the standards and norms of their existing environment.” Examples of this, mounted on the walls, include photos documenting William Pope.L’s 1978 performance “Thunderbird Immolation,” during which the African-American artist sat outside of a Soho gallery and dumped Thunderbird on himself while surrounded by an ominous circle of matches (he was eventually shooed away). Feminists will be drawn to the works of the Guerrilla Girls, whose 1989 bus ad asked the cheeky question, “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met museum?” (The ad was eventually yanked for being too, well, cheeky.)
There are also press releases from Tehching Hsieh, a sort of David Blaine of the art world who performed various year-long stunts — er, performance pieces — like locking himself inside of a small wooden cage within his Hudson Street studio for a year, forgoing talking, reading, writing, or so much as listening to the radio.
By far the most iconic work in the exhibit is that of Haring. Photographs show his early days of chalking unused ad space on the walls of the Grand and Houston Street subway stations, to the amusement/bemusement of onlookers and the occasional irritation of cops (one photo shows him getting arrested). Even as he rocketed to fame, Haring did as many as 30 “silly drawings” a day, as reported in a 1982 CBS Evening News segment that also showed him painting his epic mural on Bowery and Houston.
It’s easy to forget how close Governors Island is to the Lower East Side, but it’s a super quick bike ride to the ferry, which leaves as often as every half hour and takes just minutes to cross. Once you’re there, you can lie in a hammock, chug some beer, hit up the food vendors, check out the wacky installations and mini golf course that Figment has erected, and explore everything else going on in the former officers quarters (the awesome New York Electronic Art Festival ends today). If you’re looking for a good excuse to visit, this year’s VW Traffic Jam will once again bring a precious parade of vintage Veedubs to the island on August 23.
And yes, if you want to catch some herring in addition to some Haring, adults with a fishing license are free to cast a line.