Long Island City is pretty much deserted on most Saturday afternoons. You can walk from the Queensboro Plaza subway stop to Deitch Projects without seeing more than one or two other people walking the warehouse-lined streets. Desolate and empty, the neighborhood is actually home to some of the city's most interesting art spaces: P.S.1, SculptureCenter, and the Fisher Landau Center. Matthew Barney has a massive studio nearby. You feel disconnected from Chelsea, but you're actually in the heart of the art world.
You might feel the same way looking at Keith Haring's work. He looked like an outsider when he first became a star in the 1980's. Though he never really got canonized or copied, most people with some interest in art can still spot a Haring today. That said, I've never met anyone who claims to love his art. Jeffrey Deitch does, though, and has recently decided to devote some of his considerable energy to the artist, releasing a luxurious book, reinstalling a mural on Houston and Bowery, and showing the largely unseen series of monumental canvases The Ten Commandments.
Originally painted for a 1985 show in Bordeaux, Deitch and company have taken good care of the works. They're clean and crisp; the trademark bright paint looks fresh. All the classic Haring figures are present in these visual depictions of their title: cartoon people, televisions, dollar signs. Most of the constructions are pretty straightforward - a hand plucking a dollar bill from two other waving hands, two heads fellating a cross. Haring has clever moments, but they're certainly not here. Still, the show is worth seeing. Unlike most the artist's work, the form here wins over the content. It's fun looking at painting this massive and paint this bright. They're simple, sugary curiosities, only barely cloying.
Keith Haring, The Ten Commandments [installation view] [detail], 1985
Keith Haring, The Ten Commandments [installation view], 1985
Keith Haring, The Ten Commandments
4-40 44th Drive
Long Island City, Queens, New York
Through February 15, 2009