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Remembrance: the life and work of artist Harrison Keys

Editor’s Disclosure: Lloyd Benjamin represented Keys through Get This! Gallery and is the partner of ArtsATL Executive Director Susannah Darrow.

All images courtesy Lloyd Benjamin. 

Harrison Keys, who passed away on Thursday, July 7, had a reputation as an artist for infusing his signature cynical humor, jubilant color and energetic linework in his paintings and drawings. But, throughout all of these jovial creations shone a deep emotional complexity –– one of the main reasons Keys’ work resonated so deeply with Atlanta’s visual arts community and elsewhere.

To pay tribute to the artist, ArtsATL has asked Lloyd Benjamin, who represented Keys at Get This! Gallery, to assemble his thoughts on Keys’ career and contributions to our art scene:

I worked with Harrison Keys over the course of eight years at Get This. Through multiple shows, happenings, events — with highlights being his three solo exhibitions: First Time in 2007, Pressure Luck in 2010 and Always Aweigh in 2014. His work was always well-received and desired, regardless of whether it was being shown on the home front in Atlanta, or elsewhere. People responded to it and loved it. I remember how honored Harrison was when the High Museum of Art acquired two of his works for their permanent collection. In a way I saw that acquisition as an affirmation for him. He loved his hometown greatly, and this was a very special way in which his hometown was showing him love. That’s how Harrison worked, he was loyal and loving.   

There are certain people in this world that are able to effortlessly blend art and life, people that seem to have a bottomless well of creativity and talent to draw from. Harrison was one of these people; he was a gifted and beautiful man. What he put to paper with ink, pushed around in paint and placed on the streets for everyone to see was both genuine and genius. There was an undeniably sharp wit and often dark sarcasm in what he created. It made you laugh, made you think, and made you feel something. Wonderful individuals like Harrison Keys don’t grace us with their presence very often in a lifetime. Please know this and remember him. We are less without him.

Harrison Keys meant so much to so many people. My love goes out to his family. I’m proud to have called Harrison a great friend. I’ll live with his memory and artwork for the rest of my life.