Apocalypse 10 / 104 x 104 cm / 1988
Are we looking at the work of a naive artist or at a child’s piece of art? The accumulation of patterns seems like it wants to tell us a story. If we take a closer look, though, the style indistinctly sends us back to this kid who doesn’t look like his classmates. His style is instantly recognizable, thanks to his particularly graphic gesture, between figuration and abstraction. His name is Keith Haring and he presents this screenprint from the "Apocalypse" series, produced in 1988, year during which he learns that he’s been infected with the HIV virus. The series consists of 10 works illustrated by the writings of author William S. Burroughs. Let’s try to decipher this particular piece together. A flower blooming into a religious icon crosses the format from bottom to top, dividing it into two parts. We can catch a glimpse of a symmetry on either side of this imposing green stem. The same symbols respond to each other: hands, circles, the red, the blue. We’re trying to rebuild a story with all of these elements. But where to begin? What’s the direction of reading? Whatever! What’s important is to find one’s own interpretation. As in the psychological Rorschach test, that presents colored inkblots, the artist offers us an individual questioning that faces our own interpretation. Creating the illusion of an actual psychoanalysis, the "Apocalypse" series is divided into ten works, just like the inkblot test is divided into 10 images. The symmetry, the black, the red and the pastel colors… Everything is profoundly identical. This link even takes us a little bit further with the interpretation of each work from the "Apocalypse" series in the light of a text from William S. Burroughs. American novelist mainly known for his mad novels mixing drugs, homosexuality and anticipation, he is associated to the Beat Generation. This collaboration was obvious to both artists, who were close to each other and shared a lot. Here’s a passage from the text that illustrates Apocalypse 10:
Skyscrapers scrape rents of blue and white paint from the sky, the rivers swirl with color, nitrous ochres and reds eat through the bridges, falling into the rivers, splashing colors across warehouses and piers and roads and buildings, AMOK art floods inorganic molds, stirring passion of metal and glass, steel girders writhing in mineral lusts burst from their concrete covers, walls of glass melt and burn with madness in a billion crazed eyes, bridges buck cars and trucks into the rivers, the sidewalks run ahead faster and faster, energy ground down into sidewalks and streets by billions of feet and tires erupts from manholes and tunnels, breaks out with volcanic force
LET IT COME DOWN Caught in New York beneath the animals of the village, the Piper pulled down the sky.
© Speerstra Gallery / Marie Bourtayre / translation and voice: Yann Marguet