“Andy Mouse – New Coke” by Keith Haring, A Tribute to Andy Warhol, Mickey Mouse & Coca-Cola

“When I want to Keith Haring’s studio, I saw genius. I saw someone with a signature style – a style he seemed to be born with. Haring seemed to me to be like Andy Warhol, someone who knew that what he was doing was important, and he didn’t care if he worked fourteen or sixteen hours a day. His work was his entire world”.
(Henry Geldzahler about Keith Haring; “Keith Haring – The Authorized Biography” by John Gruen, A Fireside Book, 1991).

Pop artist and icon Keith Haring, much like his artistic idol Andy Warhol, used bright colors, bold lines and simple subject matters. He developed a unique visual lexicon. Essential concepts (birth, death, love, and war) were conveyed by the simplest of symbols: energy, waves, hearts, glowing babies (his most famous life giving symbol), barking dogs, and antic “everyman” figures.

Urban street culture became a defining influence on art, fashion, and music of the 1980’s, in particular in New York. Keith Haring was preeminent among the young artists, filmmakers, performers, and musicians whose work responded to these impulses and helped shape the culture of that decade.
Haring’s phenomenal rise from a talented graffiti artist, whose “radiant baby” became a worldwide symbol of 1980s pop culture, remains arguably as relevant today as when it was created despite being universally recognized as representative of that era. Painting with artistic and childlike exuberance, his talent was first recognized on subway platforms where he drew his trademark chalk figures and murals for all of New York to see. “When I did a drawing and went back a week later, the drawing was still there. It was neither smudged nor did anyone try to clean it off. I mean, it seemed to have this protective power that prevented people from destroying them. Another thing that I realized how many people were seeing these things. Within a week, when I’d be doing another drawing, people would come up to me and say, “So you’re the guy who did these drawings!” Because, see, there was never a signature. Nobody knew who was doing this stuff. And I started to realize the power and the potential of what I was doing.”

“It’s treating Warhol like he was part of American culture, like Mickey Mouse was.”
(Daniel Drenger, “Art and Life: An Interview with Keith Haring,” Columbia Art Review, Spring 1988).

Executed in 1985, and painted during an extremely fertile time for Keith Haring, Andy Mouse pays tribute to his close friend, hero and mentor, Andy Warhol, to whom Haring was introduced following his second exhibition in New York at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in 1984. This historic encounter between Warhol and Haring brought together their mutual fascination with an “Art for Everybody,” and an admiration for Walt Disney, a man who inspired both artists. A friendship that developed almost immediately, Haring often visited Andy at the Factory and would trade works with him. Drawing on Warhol’s legacy, and similar to Disney, Haring created a world for both adults and children, in which art became a visual vocabulary and one that could be shared with everyone, as seen here on the animated canvas of Andy Mouse. Believing that cartoon figures could be an component of fine art, and regarding Andy Warhol and Walt Disney as heroes, Haring’s exuberant and enchanting Andy Mouse bonded together the work of these three significant artists.

Adaptating of one the most internationally recognized and celebrated cartoon characters, Haring presents the viewer with his hybrid Andy Mouse cartoon against the backdrop of a New Coke label; the product introduced the same year Andy Mouse was executed. This large-scale piece, evoking his wall drawings and subway posters, skillfully combines three different symbols of commerce: Coca-Cola, Mickey Mouse and Andy Warhol – with a deceptively simple palette of red, yellow, white and black, reintroducing the commercial colors of 1960s Pop Art.

Monumental in scale, Andy Mouse originated from a new body of work in which Haring focused on his passion for both drawing and mass production. Sharing with Warhol an understanding of the effect of mass media’s visual dynamics, Haring intuitively understood that good mass media imagery could be seen at any size and still make a strong visual impact. The use of scale that typifies mass media imagery is atypical of fine art, yet it runs through most of Haring’s art and appears as a common thread amongst his works.

Unlike the black line Haring frequently drew to define space in his work, the caricature of Andy Mouse is framed by the hard-edged white line of the New Coke label. By appropriating this brand logo and combining it with the repetitive use of the dollar sign, Haring brilliantly manipulates the concept of Pop into his own unique hand- drawn style.
Both Haring and Warhol liked Coca-Cola a lot. Warhol once described Coca-Cola, often served at Haring’s openings, as a highlight of democratic equality. Swept up into the Pop Art scene himself and endeavoring to present iconic images in a hand-crafted way, Haring blends this classic symbol of American mass culture into his own hand- painted canvas in a playful and energetic way.

Andy Mouse is a brilliant culmination of Haring’s entire oeuvre. Its bold graphic quality, complex composition and glorious color are high water marks for the artist. Andy Mouse’s large scale and brilliant postmodern referencing of Pop icons such as Coke and Mickey Mouse – by way of Andy Warhol – mark this as a seminal Haring work which remains relevant to contemporary art today.

By the time that Haring (1958-1990), a major supporter of good causes and Aids research and awareness, died at age 31, his work had moved from underground New York to the most prestigious galleries and museums around the world. Just like his hero Andy Warhol, Keith Haring has left a huge impact on the Pop Art culture world. Even though the master behind the creations has gone nearly two decades ago, Keith Haring’s art and messages are still alive.

Sources: Keith Haring, exhibition catalogue, Dexia Banque Int. à Luxembourg, 2007; Keith Haring, exhibition catalogue, Musée Art Contemporain Lyon, 2008; Christies auction catalogue, 2008; The Authorized Biography” by John Gruen, A Fireside Book, 1991.

Andy Warhol, A Visual & Conceptual Multimedia Genius

When the young Andy Warhol graduated from college in June 1949, he immediately moved to New York. It took him only three months to begin a brilliant career as a commercial artist. Appropriately enough, Warhol’s first assignment was to illustrate an article in Glamour magazine, “Success is a Job in New York”.
Influenced by the early work of pop artists such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist and Tom Wesselmann, Warhol quickly made the decision to take the leap into “real art”.
In the early sixties, Warhol had become a commercial artist with painterly ambitions – asked by a dealer why his works were smudged, he replied, “But you have to drip. Otherwise they think you’re not sensitive”.
To Warhol, it was a matter of no small interest that the avant-garde could come so close to his own world of commercial art.

Warhol’s early comic strip works were clearly inspired by the work of Roy Lichtenstein, but Warhol quickly found his own style. His iconic portraits of Dollar signs and postage stamps, Coca-Cola bottles, cans and signs; Campbell’s, Mott’s, Kellog’s and Del Monte’s packagings; celebrities such as Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy; tabloids and newspapers such as Daily News and New York Post as well as his recreations of violent imagery from race riots to car crashes, quickly earned the young artist a reputation. Warhol also moved into experimental filmmaking, publishing and multimedia ventures, all the while adding fuel to the Warhol myth.

In 1966, Warhol began presenting The Velvet Underground, the legendary underground band fronted by Lou Reed, John Cale & Nico as part of his traveling multimedia show called the “Exploding Plastic Inevitable”. A year later, he produced their debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico. The album cover designed by Warhol is so iconic that people often refer to it as the “Warhol LP” or the “Banana album”.

In art, even the recent past is another country. To experience a frisson of how it felt when Pop Art started to be made, felt and understood radically differently in the early 1960s, visit the current exposition “Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms” at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, USA. Running from Sept 13, 2008 until Feb 15, 2009, “Other Voices, Other Rooms” (named for the Truman Capote novel of the same name) sheds a new light on the celebrated pop artist and focuses on the ideas at the heart of Warhol’s work from the 1950’s through to the 1980’s: embracing consumer culture, exploring sexual identity, challenging social conventions, and erasing distinctions between high and low culture.

This travelling show of ultimate Andy Warhol trivia, is organised by Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Moderna Museet Stockholm in collaboration with The Andy Warhol Museum and presents Warhol’s films, screen-tests, videos and television programmes, which combined with extraordinary archive material, seminal paintings and installations, illuminates his creative process.

Besides Warhol’s film and video work, the exhibit focuses also on less known aspects of the artist by showing some miscellaneous extras. Warhol was obsessive about collecting and on display here are a few of the 600 time capsules that he made in the 1960s, self-consciously establishing a repository of the essential elements of the cultural Zeitgeist that swirled around him. These took the form of cardboard boxes full of old postcards, Christmas cards, telephone notes, photographs, cinema tickets and the odd T-shirt. There are covers of his magazine Interview. There are books, contact sheets, photomat strips and wonderful expanses of his wallpaper: Chairman Mao, cows and Warhol’s face repeated hundreds of times in bright colours.

Wexner Center director Sherri Geldin: “Upon visiting this astounding and ingenious exhibition in Amsterdam late last year, I immediately set the wheels in motion to bring it to the Wexner Center. It explores afresh the remarkable legacy of an artist who utterly transformed the cultural landscape of his own time, but also foretold with uncanny prescience today’s media-obsessed society”.

The mix of celebrity and the underground, reality and artifice, a culture without hierarchies of image or thought, the subtle eroticisation of almost anything he touched: Andy Warhol presented a visual and conceptual overload which emphasises that, inescapably and from all sides, Warhol is our contemporary. “Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms” illuminates his creative process, sheds new light on his work and explores his genius for discerning the way pop culture penetrates our lives.

You can find more info on the Wexner website.

Coca-Cola Pop Art Gallery: John Clem Clarke

During the second half of the twentieth century, popular culture and the mass media gained a huge significance in American culture. Pop art that was a sign of the times: a product, a tribute to art history and critique of the social situation.
In the sixties, the New York art scene was very diverse, with people coming from different places, backgrounds and art disciplines & movements. The young John Clem Clarke was always fascinated art & advertising. He moved to New York, started painting and quickly made a name in the NYC pop art scene. Art about art is a continuous thread through Clarke’s work. His series re-working the Old Masters, such as Velasquez’s “Las Meninas” and Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” are popular icons of the late 60’s.
Clarke’s works, a mix of photo-realism and comic style with a pop art imagery. hang today in major museums as NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art & Whitney Museum of American Art, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, LA’s County Museum and Washington’s Hirshhorn Museum.

Clarke works in the pop art tradition of Andy Warhol, Jim Dine, Roy Liechtenstein & Tom Wesselmann, drawn on the graphic vocabularies of commercial modernity: “I play back and forth using unique objects and a mass-produced presentation style. You might say that ideas I express are a lot more complex than the apparently simple style I use to express them”.
Speed is vital to the freshness of John Clem Clarke’s works, and animation is the key to his style. Every line is alive, no edge is ever straight. The large size of his artworks plays an important role in the transformation of Clarke’s illustration-based style into high art.
Working on big size canvasses, his work is quite technical. The last years he uses a computer for the design phase, but before he had to work out all specific details as a sketch, use an overhead projector to project this sketches on a canvas, drew the projected image and finally paint it.” His way of working is very similar to the work of illustrators of comics or how graphic designers work today in Photoshop. Clarke: “My first layer was always the black outline. Then I painted a colored layer underneath using the line drawing as an overlay. This is the same technique Disney cartoonists used years ago. Of course, when I was developing it as my own way of working, I didn’t know that. For the actual painting, I use large stencils. I lay them onto the canvas and sponge the paint on. This way there are no brush strokes. Sometimes, I overlay the stencils so that you get the sort of effect you see when a picture isn’t printed quite right -just a little offset. I like that irregular edge”. Just like the works by Andy Warhol or Jean-Michelle Basquiat, John Clem Clarke’s oeuvre is complete with imperfections: “Instead of painting out my “mistakes”, I let them stay on the canvas as alternative solutions to the painting and to show the thought process in making a painting. It bothers me when things look too good. I like to paint and paint and paint, until I get it wrong.”

On weekends, Clarke still roams around flea and antiques markets, looking for vintage retro objects, advertising material and photographs he can use as a point of departure for his artworks. The great ads from the fifties and early sixties are a big source of inspiration: “I try to make the paintings seem as commercially produced as possible. People grew up looking at commercial illustration and print advertising, so they are comfortable with it as a visual style. I make art in a way that people find it immediately accessible”.
Clarke found his future as an artist in his past through the subject matter, themes and styles of forties, fifties & sixties. But Clarke’s works also speak of the present, the moment he creates them, by his vision & the personal touch of his brushstroke.

In the 1910s, the Coca-Cola Company ran an ad of a gorgeous woman drinking a Coke. The copy read: “Nothing is so suggestive of Coca-Cola’s own pure deliciousness as the picture of a beautiful, sweet, wholesome, womanly woman.”
Associating itself with an ideal American girl, Coca-Cola made its appeal to the public. Clarke takes this advertising concept one step further and combines the “Coca-Cola girl” billboard with the all American theme of a police car chase. His painting “Police Behind Cola Billboard” is so filmesque, that we actually wonder what will happen next…

Siggi Eggertsson, the Jigsaw Puzzle Impressionist

Siggi Eggertsson is a young graphic designer/illustrator, with already a huge amount of work under his belt.
Born in Akureyri, a small town on the north coast of Iceland in 1984, Eggertsson was raised by his mother, who is also an artist. When Siggi was 15 years old, he started to “fool around” with design programs, making posters for music concerts and art exhibitions.
To quote Lou Reed & John Cale (from their Andy Warhol tribute “Songs for Drella”): “When you’re growing up in a small town/You know that you want to get out”. There was indeed no Picasso or Michelangelo coming from Akureyri, so when Eggertsson was 18 he was getting a bit bored and applied for the Graphic Design Dept. of the Iceland Academy of the Arts. He got accepted, so he moved to Reykjavík.
To broad his horizons, Siggi did an internship at the New York design studio Karlssonwilker, lived and worked in Berlin before ending up in London.
Eggertsson quickly started to make a name for himself in international design, art and media circles. In 2006, Print magazine ranked him as one of the 20 most promising designers under 30 years old. His works have also been featured in many books and magazines as Computer Arts, Clark and Dazed & Confused.

Eggertsson’s influences are varied and eclectic, from ancient Viking, Egyptian and Roman art, classical painters like Matisse, Legér and Picasso to the current music scene. He also feels inspired by people as Stefan Sagmeister, Peter Saville, Robbie Williams and Vincent Gallo – the way they think, their lifestyles and their approaches to creativity.

Siggi had the luck to do projects for bands as Zoot Woman, The Delays, Gnarls Barkley, … and open-minded brands as H&M, Nike and Stüssy. Still he feels that his self-initiated work is more important than anything else. It’s where he can experiment and push his style in new directions.
During his stay in Berlin, he created his own version of the cityscape in true Impressionist tradition but instead of taking a canvas outside, he created his artwork directly on his computer.

Eggertsson has a very simple yet very original and recognizable style. He begins an illustration with a sketch on grid paper, and adds abstraction and color later, fusing linear into pixilated shapes. His muted take on geometric & symmetric shapes and curving lines results in impressionistic jigsaw puzzles. Very ‘fresh’ and ‘now’, glorious pop art for the years 2000. “It’s still developing and I’m really interested in how far I can take the style,” he tells. We’re curious & looking forward to see his new work and projects.

Berlin, En Plein Air
“I’ve drawn this image on top of a 12 floor building in Friedrichshain. The battery in my computer does not last for ever, so I had to do it in several turns. I used Illustrator while I was drawing the image, and the colouring was done afterwards in Photoshop. This is an ongoing project”.

Patchwork Quilt
“This is a quilt I made for my graduation project in The Iceland Academy of the Arts. It’s based on my childhood memories and it’s made out of 10.000 pieces”.

Polar Bear & Tiger

Peter & the Wolf
“An illustration for one of my favorite children stories”.

Poster for Zoot Woman

Album Cover & Concert Poster for Gnarls Barkley

Coke Side of Life Posters: Op Art, Pop Art, Minimalism & Surrealism

Eggertsson did 4 posters for Coca-Cola (through Armchair Media). “I was playing with color and shape. Later I realized that each poster is similar to an art movement. The first one is Pop Art, the second one refers to Minimalism, third one is kind of Surrealist and the last one Op Art.”

You can see more of Eggertson’s art on his Vanillusaft website.