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.
From art fairs to alternative spaces that may not be on your radar, here’s a run-down of what to see (and eat and sip) in Miami. No NFTs, we promise.
Protests are erupting across the country in response to President Xi Jinping’s strict zero-COVID policy.
Join the New-York Historical Society on December 9 for a virtual conversation with Kellie Jones, Rujeko Hockley, and Cameron Shaw on the past, present, and future of Black art in the US.
What does it mean when the world’s richest person trolls us?
Ghenie’s paintings of Marilyn Monroe are a relentless representation of a howling, turbulent tragedy, a face broken into crude sideways slewings and gougings and gorgings of paint.
The unique MFASA at the Institute of American Indian Arts offers mentorships with world-renowned Indigenous artists, flexible schedules, and access to one of the US’s cultural capitals.
What feels like the right way to write about Roman Catholicism, or Christian iconography, to most art critics is heavily influenced by museum discourse, which is far from neutral.
A group exhibition at the Americas Society investigates ideas of paradise, approaching the Caribbean region as a product of the visitor economy regime.
Visual artists who incorporate psychedelics into their practices maintain a foundational understanding that there is more to reality than meets the eye.
Many in the local Ukrainian community want the museum’s name to be changed to reflect the many artworks in its collection by artists from former Soviet states.