This is the tag page for articles about 80s culture. Here, you’ll read about the likes of Keith Haring and retro art. The decade was known for its burgeoning electronic music scene, the continued boom of postmodernism, and iconic fashion.
Definitive 80s cultural icons included Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, Mr T, Sylvester Stallone, and Grace Jones (to name a few). Films were dominated by action franchises like The Terminator, Die Hard, Rambo, and Rocky.
At the moment, our pop culture finds itself at peak ’80s nostalgia, as news outlets rush to publish their own guides to the decade’s easter eggs hidden in the third season of Stranger Things (2016–present). Those who came of age in the 1980s are now in their mid-forties, so perhaps it just makes sense that the kids who grew up are now showrunners, casting viewers in the nostalgic glow of their own youth.
One could also argue that ’80s nostalgia is on the rise due to some meritocracy of the decades—the eighties were just a cooler, quirkier, and kitschier time to be alive. My own recollections of the time are a murky haze of fleeting passions, both joyous and totally embarrassing. There are, for instance, the Garbage Pail Kids cards, which hit young male culture hard in 1985—pimply teens sneakily trading Boozin’ Bruce for Adam Bomb or Smelly Sally. I’ll never fully wash off the trauma of the humanoid animals residing in Zoobilee Zoo (1986–87). I’ll never live down listening to the Christian hair-metal albums by Stryper that my mom gently forced on me as an antidote to the more “satanic” alternatives. I’ll never forget the uncomfortable prominence of David Bowie’s codpiece in Labyrinth (1986).
Index of Fillers is the artist’s second monograph following his acclaimed publication rowing a tetrapod (MACK, 2017) and is the first artist book published by Assembly. Composed of found images of Japanese culture from the late 1980s and 1990s along with Ishino’s own photographs, Index of Fillers is a recreation of the artist’s elusive memory of growing up during this era in Japan.
I like the Japanese comic strip panelling he uses for his images. There’s nothing dramatised or embellished about the subject matter; it’s literally an index of cultural fillers and while that may seem mundane to some, it’ll be refreshing to others.
Roy Mehta is a London-based photographer and in his latest publication, Revival: London 1989-1993, he reconnected with his roots in Brent, north-west London. The book is a collection of Roy’s photos taken in a 4-year period from the tail-end of the 80s to the early 90s.
During this time, in 1989, Roy was living in Farnham, but he knew the area of Brent like the back of his hand – he just hadn’t been there for a while. So he packed up his camera and started to wander the roads of his old hometown, taking pictures along the way and observing the streets that he once used to roam as a child. “I gradually got to know the people and began to be accepted into churches, pubs, homes, dancehalls and other places in the community,” Roy tells It’s Nice That. “This was a long time before digital photography and social media, so photography was a different kind of practice; people related to the camera in a different way.”
Modern art rabbit holes are the best kind to fall down.
Sure, there’s a lot of pretentiousness in the field and dominated by white men both at the canvas and observing it for the media. But there’s a unique artist for everyone. Someone that catches you off guard with their interpretation of the world, telling a story that means something to you.
And for me, Keith Haring is one of those artists. Born on 4th May 1958, Haring’s work became synonymous with New York City and its bustling subways, depicting striking images of human figures, dogs, and all kinds of manifested emotions.
As his popularity grew, so did the themes behind them. He created large scale murals as forms of activism for AIDS awareness and sexuality. His work never demeaned or alienated those who observed. They were fun and full of energy and, most of all, memorable. You know when seen a Keith Haring piece.
So with that, I’ve made a YouTube playlist of 8 Keith Haring documentaries to watch at your leisure. Enjoy!
Update: 2 of the videos were made private so only 6 are available to view.
1. Drawing the line: a portrait of Keith Haring
This documentary was produced by Elisabeth Aubert in conjunction with Biografilm.
Keith Haring’s artistry moved went from New York subway graffiti to the art galleries and walls of the rich and famous. He was often likened to Andy Warhol (much like his best friend Jean-Michel Basquiat) but I feel that diminished his individuality and personal merit.
He broke boundaries with his work as a form of activism during the AIDS epidemic, which he sadly died from in 1990.
2. The Universe of Keith Haring
The strapline for this documentary is simply “a portrait of New York artist Keith Haring” but this picture paints a lot more than 1,000 words.
Christina Clausen directed the film and gave glimpses into his life, from his humble beginnings in Pennsylvania to pop culture icon. The film also stars Yoko Ono, Fab 5 Freddy, and David LaChapelle.
3. Keith Haring – The Message
French fashion designer Maripol presented his documentary (English dub and French subs). Split into episodes, The Message looked at the different ways Haring’s work immersed itself into pop culture during the 80s.
4. Discover the King of Street Art: Keith Haring
Discover the King of Street Art will appeal to fans of mini-documentaries. This one is a 4-minute journey through his life and features some of his most famous pieces, from subway walls to the Berlin Wall (and Grace Jones).
5. Keith Haring Uncovered
The other documentaries in the list gave overviews of Haring’s life but Keith Haring Uncovered looks at his visit to Australia in 1984 when he created a mural in Collingwood, Melbourne. What makes this mural special is its rarity – there are only 31 known Haring murals “in the wild” so to speak.
6. From the archives: Keith Haring was here
This is an archived news story rather than a doc but it’s still pretty cool. Charles Osgood investigated on Haring’s chalk drawings in New York subways that often got him in trouble with the law. Spoilsports.
7. Mr. Guera Reads …Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing
If the children are our future, they ought to know about Haring too. And this video does exactly that. Mr Guera is an illustrator who makes educational trading cards called Buzu Trading Cards® and in this, he did a reading of Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing by Kay A Haring, Keith’s younger sister.
8. Intro to Keith Haring
The final video splices together footage from other documentaries as an educational aid, including the semiotic nature of his work. Perfect for students of any age.
I’m not heavily into vaporwave but certain parts of the aesthetic appeals to me. That’s why Retrogeist intrigued me when I found it on Instagram.
It’s an 80s/90s account with the coolest images from two bygone eras. As we inch closer to a new decade, we move further away from the old ones. But the Internet preserves those memories in the form of accounts like Retrogeist.
Here are some photos from the account to take you back in time.
Good ol’ Crockett and Tubbs. Between the iconic fashion to that theme tune, Miami Vice defined the 80s.
The Ferrari Testarossa premiered at the 1984 Paris Auto Show and the two-door sports coupé encapsulated what the 80s was all about. It was all about indulgence, image, and excess and the Testarossa had a 4.9L tank to hold them all in.
Paul Verhoeven’s cyberpunk classic depicted a crime-ridden Detroit being saved by a cyborg cop with some of the wildest special effects of the 80s. It’s hyper-violent, entertaining, and full of iconic one-liners. And it’s 80s as hell.
The Nintendo Game Boy
The Game Boy came out in 1989 but it was very much a 90s console. The Game Boy line sold 118.69m units and lasted all the way to 2003. It got everyone hooked on Tetris before they got hooked on Pokémon. The green screen with its lack of a backlight managed to overcome the threat of Sega’s Game Gear thanks to a better battery life and illustrious games catalogue. And it came in some many colours and sizes.
I know everyone talks up Reservoir Dogs but I didn’t like it much. Pulp Fiction was my favourite. Before Tarantino used his films as a cover for amplifying the N-word, he made a film starring a washed-up John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson in a Jheri curl straight out of a Soul Glo commercial (which is funny because he had a cameo in Coming To America where that commercial was from), and Uma Thurman in that bob wig that seemed to do the rounds in 90s movies.
Yes, I’m 5 years late and the series just finished but everyone was unhappy with the last season so let’s remember the good times. And mix them up with late 80s nostalgia.
YouTuber Mikolaj.Birek put together two Game of Thrones videos to make a fantastic 80s VHS intro. The font used for the titles was also used on Diagnosis Murder amongst other things so this is a late 80s/early 90s kinda mix but that synth soundtrack is pure 80s.
One of my favourite accounts on Twitter has to be @CoolFilmArt. It’s a treasure trove of, well, cool film art with incredible posters from all over the world. We spoke to Robyn, one of the curators of the account about its origins and some of her favourite film posters.
So, how did the @CoolFilmArt account come about?
My pal Jim helps run @CoolBoxArt and I basically ripped the idea off two years ago but for film posters, I also made a list on Letterboxd back in 2013 and thought wow that would be a cool Twitter account. My main basis for choosing a film to watch is 99% what the poster looks like so I thought other people would enjoy them as much as I do. There’s other poster accounts out there but I think we cater to a pretty niche market, like if you were to upturn a stone in between the woodlice you would find our kind of posters, haha.
How do you “curate” the film art you post?
Mostly I find stuff on Google, I like to look for Hollywood posters from other countries (Japan posters are always wild), VHSCollector is a big source for me, loads of hi-res scans of VHS box art! Tumblr also has a good community of poster enthusiasts. If I post fan posters I always try and link back to the original artist, some of them are so good though that you can’t tell if it’s official or not!
Do you have any ambitions to branch out to other channels like Facebook or with a blog?
I already run a film blog @bimbomoviebash and there are no plans to expand CoolFilmArt out. It was always meant to be this very simple idea of just posting posters, I kind of hate it when you follow an account for one thing and they start bringing all their personal stuff into it so I try and keep that to a minimum. Just posters posters posters!
Would you say creative film posters are a dying breed now?
Back in the 80s film rentals and sales were driven so hard by the poster, like you could take a video off the shelf and it would be the poster that swung it. In the day and age of the internet you can’t disguise a shitty film with flashy artwork anymore so there’s really no need for it. It’s definitely a dying art, which is a shame. I can’t stomach a lot of posters now, the trend of just putting absolutely everything on the poster sucks, like Force Awakens, however if something looks interesting now (like that neon green Thor Ragnarok poster) it definitely stands out. I think artistic posters are making a bit of a comeback now because all these kids who grew up in the 80s are making their own films now, but sadly it’s just not important anymore.
Paul Verhoeven. No one rivals his eye for flashy gaudiness or his bite. People are only just starting to GET Showgirls. What a legacy.
Jeff Goldblum, I could watch him for hours. Tony Leung, Traci Lords, Divine, Linnea Quigley, Denzel, Jill Schoelen like, the list is never-ending!
Are there any film posters you hate and if so, why?
I’ve never met a Christopher Nolan poster that I’ve liked.
What kind of influence do you think film and film art have on culture in modern times?
I think we’re living in both the worst and best time for movies at the moment. Some days it feels like we’re in a never-ending chasm of superhero reboots that are never ever going to stop, and they all look the same and they swallow up and coming directors into this cycle and then don’t give them the creative freedom to do anything that was the reason they hired them. On the other hand you have stuff like Get Out that swept us all up in a way you wouldn’t think could ever happen anymore, it’s like we all forgot our cynicism and were able to come together to enjoy this truly great movie and things like that make me think we’re going to be okay.