The Project in Progress/Keith/Art/Meaning

The Project/Keith/Art/MeaningOn Saturday, I returned with my drawing class to the Keith Haring exhibit at the Reading Public Museum. I said a few things about Keith, a few things about Keith and me, and a few things about how to experience meaning in the work Keith did during his tragically short creative life.Some of what I said reminded me of the ongoing project Keith and I were involved in for years leading up to the time of his death. Beginning with his exposure to Keith Sonnier’s thoughts on semiotics – the significance of systems of signs to human consciousness – Keith thought of his own work in a semiological context. A major part of the time I spent with Keith was involved in pondering and discussing signs and symbols and how they generate potential meaning. Originally, we thought we’d create a book that moved toward explicating the visual language he was creating and how it related to the philosophical core of our dialog. That was too limited a concept and finally we opted for an open-ended project that would not be held to a specific definition. In this way it could evolve and generate meaning as it proceeded.There is a sense in which this methodology exactly echoes its subject matter. That is what struck me on Saturday while describing to students how best to move toward a personal “understanding” of Keith’s work. These thoughts help me with my own work as well. The abstruse nature of my aesthetic conceptions reflects my method of creation by way of movement along a philosophical via negativa. I avoid specific definition of the meaning, significance, or nature of my work in order to allow it to be whatever it may become – without imposing upon it a limiting interpretation or explication. That’s the point at which Keith and I were of one mind. Creating a system of signs and symbols without imposing a set of specific definitions and grammatical rules allows the work to be immediately relevant to any individual person in any particular point of space/time. It also opens the way for transforming all conventional thought and experience into metaphysics.*Next: Initially approaching Keith’s work as a method of moving toward meaning..*Image: Installation View: Entranceway, Keith Haring: Journey of the Radiant Baby, Reading Public Museum (photo by TFD).

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