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Haring Miami: Local Artists Jessy Nite and Albert Vatveri on Keith Haring's Influence

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New York City has long been the mecca of contemporary American art. In the '80s, artists such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring dominated the local scene before going on to take over the (art) world.

Through Sunday, March 10, the Moore Building is exhibiting "Haring Miami," featuring more than 200 original works by the artist. Presented by the same people who brought last year's "Dali Miami" to town, the exhibit promises tons of never-before-seen work.

Haring, whose ubiquitous, colorful pop style had earned him international acclaim, died of AIDS at age 31. But at that young age, he had already produced more works of art than some artists three times his age.

Apart from producing copious artworks, he was also a champion of AIDS organizations and children's programs, for which his own organization, the Keith Haring Foundation, provided funds.

Artists all over the world have been influenced by Haring's bold colors and fluid lines. Jessy Nite, a local artist with Primary Projects, explains how she was introduced to Haring's work:

"My mother is an art enthusiast, and when we were little children, she would give us books from the Met and Smithsonian as presents. I was born just outside of Manhattan, so she would often take us for outings in the city. I can still remember when I started to notice the bright colors and characters of Keith Haring's work. I was so used to more classical styles that once I learned he was a 'real artist,' it framed the art world in a whole new context. Haring was one of the first artists who showed me the value of personal style and originality in a professional artist career."

As busy as Haring was taking over New York, he still found time to hang out with Madonna, junkie/author William Burroughs, and psychologist/junkie Timothy Leary. Madonna has given many a shout-out to him over the years. When we mentioned his name to local artists, they were eager to share stories about Haring's influence.

Says Albert Vatveri: "Keith Haring's iconic and universal work has been infused in my mind and those of many others who grew up in the '80s. You might not have known his name, but you knew the work. I see in some of my work a similar connection in communicating with simple and powerful, primitive images."

Nite adds, "Though I've only ever been familiar with his work in retrospect -- he passed when I was still very young -- I think that many contemporary artists, including myself, have taken cues from his openness and freedom of thought. Style, scale, and composition play such an integral part in Haring's work that it's one of the most recognizable in the world. I think the way that all of those aspects come together -- the fact that it's all so him -- is part of why people love Haring so much."

She continues, "His will to expand his audiences through merchandise and commercial work, though sometimes controversial in the fine-art world, is what influences me most. I strongly believe in making art for everyone and sharing it with the world. It's incredible that even today, Haring is still reaching new people and inspiring individuals."

"Haring Miami" at the Moore Building (4040 NE Second Ave., Miami); now through Sunday, March 10. Tickets cost $25 to $250. Call 305-531-8700 or visit bridgehouseevents.com.

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