Manhattan is full of dicks. Keith Haring, perhaps the most famous 1980s pop and graffiti artist to come out of New York’s downtown scene, knew this well. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, Haring made a habit of drawing cartoon penises inspired by the city. Manhattan Penis Drawings for Ken Hicks, newly published by Nieves Books, compiles nearly 70 of Haring’s sketches of male genitalia.
Here, Haring envisions the city as a kingdom of phalluses: he transforms Manhattan’s churches, skyscrapers, and fire hydrants into architectural penises. The Twin Towers become twin penises. There are penises drawn in front of Tiffany’s, in front of the Museum of Modern Art, while “waiting for a yam.” There are minimalist penises, composed of as few lines as possible. There are also Gucci penises, alphabet penises, flying torpedo penises, optical illusion penises, deconstructed penises, “actual size” tracings of penises, and clusters of penises on the subway at rush hour.
The thriving tradition of penis graffiti dates back at least to the 6th century BC. What separates a Haring sketch from your average Sharpie’d weiner in a bar bathroom? Haring manages to imbue cartoon genitalia with human personalities. Some look proud, like those in “World Trade Center.” Others are friendly. “Gucci Penis” is standoffish. Some seem to be going through existential crises, like those in “Misplaced Heads.” Some look confused and lost in a crowd, like tourists, as in “Subway Car” and “Madison & 52nd.” (Many are titled with Manhattan street names or the classy sites at which Haring stood sketching.)
Though they’re all in simple graphite, lacking Haring’s signature bright colors, they’re done in the same electric style that made his radiant babies, leaping porpoises, and UFOs dance on the page. Unlike his “popnography” works in series like Sex is Life is Sex, “Manhattan Penis Drawings” are about as erotic as Dr. Seuss creatures, desexualized and abstracted into weird shapes. Drawn years before Haring was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, they’re a light, playful version of his then-controversial pop celebration of gay male sexuality.
Keith Haring’s Manhattan Penis Drawings for Ken Hicks is available from Nieves Books.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very New York art events this month, including Lee Lozano, Cindy Sherman, Tokuko Ushioda, Anas Albraehe, and more.
The art establishment was never quite sure what to do with a self-taught artist like Basquiat, who owed as much to bebop and William S. Burroughs’s cut-up technique as he did to African influences.
International audiences have free access to the media collections of MMCA Korea, Sharjah Art Foundation, and ArkDes through this subscription-based art streaming platform.
Kadish’s fossil-like heads, forms, and figures remind us that every civilization, including our own, eventually collapses.
In every role she held, Vendryes advocated for marginalized people and celebrated the cultural contributions of the Black and queer communities.
Convened by Erika Sprey, Lamin Fofana, Sky Hopinka, Emmy Catedral, and Manuela Moscoso, the public program unfolds this summer at CARA in New York City.
Stanton, who died of AIDS complications in 1984, left behind an engaging body of work, a moving tribute to a bygone generation of creative minds.
Baz Luhrmann’s film Elvis and Danny Boyle’s miniseries Pistol are both overly fixated on the influence their respective musicians’ managers had on them.
The Bay Area art book fair is back this July with free programming at three different on-site venues, new exhibitors, and fundraising editions from renowned artists.
In the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision, arts workers and reproductive rights organizations are collaborating on educational resources for accessing safe procedures.
The couple launched the Futureverse Foundation, a grantmaking organization that aims to “help keep the metaverse widely accessible.”
The museum’s “pay-what-you-wish” policy will remain in place for New York State residents and tri-state students, but out-of-state adults will pay $5 extra.