See new NYC-themed artwork by Keith Haring collaborator Angel Ortiz

Back in 1980 in a Lower East Side schoolyard, artist Keith Haring sought out 13-year-old Angel Ortiz to talk about collaborating on their artistic styles. After moving to NYC in 1978 as a relatively unknown artist from Pennsylvania, Keith Haring started noticing a graffiti tag around town that he had to know more about: LAII. 

That tag belonged to Angel Ortiz, known as Little Angel (a.k.a. LA II, LA2, LA Rock) a self-taught artist who began creating art at an extremely young age. After that schoolyard meeting, the two became collaborators who combined their signature styles to create murals, sculptures, train paintings and art on other found objects in the early 1980s. Now, Ortiz will debut new work in a Soho gallery show next month. 

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Ortiz’s latest work, called LAII: ODE 2 NYC showcases his love for his hometown. The solo show will run at Chase Contemporary in Soho (413 W. Broadway) from May 18 through June 18, 2023.

Orange and black artwork with a robot-looking creature in the middle.
Photograph: Courtesy of Chase Contemporary | Artwork by Angel Ortiz.

Born and raised on the Lower East Side, Ortiz has been creating art his whole life, starting with citywide graffiti projects with his crew TNS (The Non-Stoppers). Ortiz’s career took off once he began collaborating with Haring. The duo traveled around the globe to collaborate on gallery installations, fashion shows and museum exhibitions.

“Although Keith developed a reputation for his iconic art on the streets & subways of New York, it’s only after his extensive collaborations with Angel that he achieved the elusive ‘street cred’ that all graffiti artists seek,” Chase Contemporary explained on its website about the latest artist who died in 1990.

Even after their creative partnership waned, Ortiz’s style and technique continued to influence Haring’s work. 

Angel Ortiz stands in front of a wall of artwork.
Photograph: Courtesy of Chase Contemporary | Angel Ortiz.

“The contrast between our lines was exciting. There is something uniquely satisfying to me in the fusion between our two styles of drawing. It is a delicate balance between the archaic and the distinctly modern, classical and psychedelic art at the same time,” Haring wrote in 1982, per Chase Contemporary. 

As for Ortiz, his style mixes contemporary geometric, abstract symbols with influences attributed to hieroglyphics and calligraphy. He often repeats his street tag LAII/LA2 in a dense almost overlapping pattern referred to as “High & Tight,” then weaves in geometric patterns and animated characters.

“I am excited for people to see this new body of work, a love letter to my hometown, New York!” Ortiz said about his latest work. “The paintings will include iconic NYC imagery and gritty painting techniques to capture the essence of downtown.”

In addition to the upcoming solo show, Ortiz’s artwork can be found in major museums such as the Whitney, MoMA, the Guggenheim and the Louvre Museum-Abu Dhabi.

While the ODE 2 NYC show doesn’t begin until mid-May, you can see a show called “Influenza” by Danish artist Ole Aakjaer on view at the gallery opening as of April 27. 

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