London buses. There used to be an expression along the lines of “you wait ages for a red bus and then two come along together. I feel a little like that with “stick man” art. Having enjoyed the A R Penck show at The Ashmolean, my next trip was to Tate Liverpool for Keith Haring.
Tate Liverpool is one of my favourite galleries, for its permanent displays, its exhibitions, and especially its location on the historic waterfront. We went for a day out with my two granddaughters which had its rewards, of course, but the travel was a bit of a struggle for them. One reward was the family section where a couple of lovely original badges were made – both lost now unfortunately so I cannot show them here.
Keith Haring was the main reason for our visit planned some month ago. Haring is another dissident eighties artist, this time based around the cultural excitement of New York.
His various themes portrayed as graffiti art are the mainstay of the show. These range from political dictatorship, racism, homophobia, drug addiction, AIDS awareness, capitalism to the environment. Set out in sections against the highly exciting New York Street culture and pop world of Andy Warhol, Malcolm MacClaren and others the show takes you in and out of your comfort zone repeatedly.
I thought this show was expertly curated and a really enjoyable experience. Having criticised the Tate in the past I thought the free literature this time was spot on and relevant to the images. Stick Man Painting is very close to writing and simple thoughts and the booklet captures this perfectly with explanations of the key symbolic ideas.
Since its becoming European City of Culture in 2008, this great waterfront has been transformed with cultural centres based on The Beatles, the Sea and the City itself. Fortunately the Tate has not been left behind. If you have time go round the Albert Dock and make the Tate a must-see. This gallery seems much more amenable than its Big Brother on the south bank of the Thames. If Stick Men and anger are not for you, though, skip this exhibition, but if you do, you will miss a great insight into the New York scene of the 80s & 90s.