Keith Haring – “The 10 Commandments” at Deitch L.I.C

By - January 5th, 2009

Keith Haring   The 10 Commandments at Deitch L.I.C

This installation is certainly worth the “trek” to L.I.C. The scale and color of this project is simply amazing. Pair it with a stop at the Noguchi Museum too…

But before you head out, please read this Haring interview by Sylvie Couderc from 1985 about “The Ten Commandments.” Jungian psychological theory anyone?

Keith Haring   The 10 Commandments at Deitch L.I.C

An excerpt from Haring:

“I could not remember what the “Ten Commandments” were so I had to get a bible when I got here. I read them and took a few notes to think of it before I started working. For me they rapidly became metaphors. For some of the ideas are a little abstract, so the picture that represents them can be about other things at the same time, like “honor the Sabbath” for instance. The way I worked on the “Ten Commandments” is: even though its says “thou shalt not steal”, the picture I show is someone stealing: the antithesis. I present what not to do instead of saying “this is what you should do”. And at the same time there are things that allude to other ideas. If you did not know that they are the “Ten Commandments”, you would probably read a different story.”

From Deitch:

“The Ten Commandments, one of Keith Haring’s most powerful series of paintings, will be presented at Deitch Studios, Long Island City, from November 8, 2008 February 15, 2009. The works portray the Ten Commandments from Haring’s point of view, combining a traditional Biblical interpretation with the artist’s liberating spirit and apocalyptic vision. The Ten Commandments were painted for Haring’s first solo museum show, a 1985 exhibition at the CAPC, Bordeaux, a reconverted wool warehouse with a span of twenty-five foot high archways supporting the roof. Thinking about how to best use the space, known as “the nave,” Haring had the inspiration to order ten tablet shaped canvases to fit within the arches. While on the dance floor at the Paradise Garage the day before leaving for Bordeaux, he had a vision to paint The Ten Commandments.

Keith Haring   The 10 Commandments at Deitch L.I.C

Haring did not remember all of The Ten Commandments, so he consulted a Bible when he arrived in Bordeaux. He decided to interpret some of the commandments metaphorically rather than literally. For others, like “Thou Shalt Not Steal,” he decided to portray the antithesis, in that case showing someone stealing as an example of what not to do. Haring found some of the commandments, like “honor the Sabbath,” to lend themselves to a more abstract interpretation. Haring used the color red, which he viewed as a representation of power, to link the imagery through the ten panels. Haring also liked the color red’s association with the devil, fire, hell and stop signs.

This is the first time that The Ten Commandments have been exhibited in the United States. Their twenty-five foot height requires a large cathedral-like exhibition space. Twenty-three years after their creation, The Ten Commandments will finally be able to be shown in New York in the large gallery at Deitch Studios.”

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