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Work For Hire?
Mail passed around, New York on August 23, 2019

It is fun for people to attack Trump for being a racist, 1000s of tweets, hundreds of media articles and TV debates, but how many of the mockers are racist themselves, or at least ignore racism?

I have not found anyone to deal with this racist issue of the exclusion of Angel La2 Ortiz from the Keith Haring legacy.  Nobody, of any consequence has the internal strength to deal with this “oversight”.  Accusing Trump of being a racist is so much easier.

In some cases it may be difficult to tell the difference between a Braque and a Picasso,  In the case of Haring and Ortiz I can teach an art novice in a minute or less how to tell what is collaboration and what is a singular Haring piece.

In terms of art world racism this is a subject that I have not been able to find anyone to confront this issue.  This is not a one-time collaboration but a multi-year collaboration.  Starting before Haring’s first one-man show, Haring’s first European and Japan art trips. I remember the poster for this Tony Shafrazi show with Keith Haring and this young brown boy was everywhere. A critic I was talking to described the poster as the vogue idea of the time, showing the noble savage in art. He was referring to Basquiat and Angel Ortiz.

The Haring Brooklyn Museum exhibition made a very timid, weak, attempt by placing Angel Ortiz in a list of artists who they say collaborated with Haring, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Scharf, and Angel Ortiz. This is really just smudging art history.  Yes, maybe Haring had collaborated on shows, or a fridge in Haring’s apartment, or a door to his studio, but his one true art collaboration was with Angel Ortiz. Someone has to state the truth.

Angel after Keith had died eventually came to me feeling hopeless, deserted and abused because of how he was completely eliminated from the Keith Haring legacy and his name had been erased from any connection to Keith.  Haring is not the issue.  It is the art world which is disfiguring Angel Ortiz’s legacy.

We all know what it is like to be cheated out of our rightful credit.  But years worth of credit?  Even though Ortiz’s art is clearly visible for all the world to see it.  Ortiz has been cheated out of his credit in shows at prestigious museums, in books done by powerful institutions like the Whitney, credit left off work at world-famous auction houses, just totally ignored. Would that happen to a white artist?  This lack of recognition is so obvious.

I am including a link to a video.  I am referencing some photos from books -   Keith Haring by Jeffrey Deitch, Suzanne Geiss, Julia Gruen in cooperation with the Estate of Keith Haring & Keith Haring Elisabeth Sussman Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.  The Clayton gallery invite is from an La2 exhibition at the Clayton Gallery. The idea is to clearly make the point: where is the La2 credit?  The invite was made from a Museums City of New York pamphlet.   Some of the attached art works come out of the Whitney & Dietch Haring books.  And some from the internet.

“As a co-author of these works, Mr. Ortiz has a right of attribution under the Visual Artists Rights Act, 17 U.S.C. § 106A(a).”.  LA2 has been robbed of his identity and his contribution to making the Keith Haring success story.  La2 was Keith Haring’s partner and collaborator and not a work for hire.

Why would the Whitney Museum, the Keith Haring Foundation,  and Jeffrey Deitch create an art history book so shockingly delinquent in giving La2, Angel Ortiz, his credits?  Why would a history book fall short on so many levels? Can anyone imagine a Jackson Pollack history book leaving out the art credit and only mentioning the people standing by the work.  Fab Five Freddy and a friend?  That vase they are standing by all the art is done by La2.  No Keith Haring on that vase.

When the Haring Foundation, Jeffery Deitch and Tony Goldman decided to celebrate Keith Haring 50th birthday they did a recreation of the famous Houston Wall piece.  Angel came to me and asked what he could do to be a part of it. We decided he should tag the wall. Make the piece a collaboration.  I had the long ladder and could make sense of what is going on if the cops showed up.  And they did.  I had the catalog from that first show and the cops left.  He tagged up the wall.  The Foundation showed up days later, and looked at the wall for over an hour and decided to leave it.  Ortiz thanked me for helping by putting my name on the mural.

I went to Deitch after La2 completed his Bowery wall collaboration.  This was before Deitch went to LA to be the director of the  MOCA.  I thought I should warn him somebody will figure out so many Keith Haring art works are really collaborations. He had no fear of such a discovery.  He was angry at me screwing  his mural - “I paid 30K to make the mural and we (La2 and I) destroyed it. It was his gift to Keith Haring.” Funny how he knew he would never be questioned about La2?

He was very adamant saying  La2 was a work for hire.  Ya right.  Hired help?  Please.   Other than racist how else to describe this statement?  Kitchen help?  This is not like Mark Kostabi hiring an artist to create his artwork, or Raphael hiring studio assistance to create the hands on a painting.  This was La 2 doing all his own original artwork, not reproducing Keith's work.

I do not think the people are bad people it is just they cannot see this Brown artist as a real artist.  They can see him as nothing more than a work for hire. It is time that people in positions of authority and power stood up and right this wrong.  Finally, give Angel LA2 Ortiz his rightful credit.

La2 is one of the most important artists to come out of the Lower East Side. As a Lower East Side artist, I am proud of all Angel's accomplishments.

How many Puerto Ricans are there in any of the major museums?  There is a break, for the first time I know of, a Madison Ave show called Collaborations for a pre-Philips auction.   This time no work for hire, no noble savage, no name left off, but an equal partner. The piece sold at the Philip’s auction for 1,040,000 dollars.

The  Venus over Manhattan Collaboration show is a tiny step forward but an important one.  I need to move on from this struggle. Too many years in it already.  It is time Angel Ortiz got his rightful place in art history and in the history of the Lower East Side.
thanks, clayton

The plywood window cover on Haring’s studio door attachment is a collaboration, which includes Basquiat. Works from the Whitney/Deitch book, and off the internet.

LITTLE ANGEL WAS HERE: A Keith Haring Collaborator makes his mark

Ms. Gruen said of the foundation, “We recognize his work and respect the history of his collaboration.” Mr. Ortiz, she said, “was compensated for all the work he did with Keith Haring in Keith Haring’s lifetime.” 

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Where is LA II
Show at Clayton Gallery 2002
Keith Haring's old studio
Keith Haring's old studio
Haring's old studio door
Haring's old studio door
Keith Haring's visual language
Keith Haring's visual language
Keith Haring's museum show card
Keith Haring's museum show card

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