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Own a Keith Haring In Honor of His Birthday!

  • Keith Haring - Poster for Nuclear Disarmament (detail), 1982
May 4, 2019
A philosophy graduate interested in critical theory, politics and art. Alias of Jelena Martinović.

During his tragically short but prolific artistic career, Keith Haring left a deep mark on the world of contemporary art, inspiring generations of future artists. After arriving in New York in 1978, he immersed himself in its downtown culture, quickly becoming a fixture in the vibrant dance club and street art scene. Haring became known for the recognizable style of bold lines and bright colors, as well as the unique energy and optimism of his art.

Through a unique symbolic language composed of barking dogs, flying saucers, television heads, radiant baby or dancing figures, the artist communicated a number of pressing issues of the time, from nuclear proliferation to AIDS to the environment to income inequality to racism and apartheid.

On February 16th, 1990, Keith Haring died from AIDS-related complications, leaving an indelible artistic and activist legacy behind him. Today, on May 4 2019, the artist would have turned 61. Honoring his birthday, we bring you some of his works that you can add to your collection.

Featured image: Keith Haring – Poster for Nuclear Disarmament (detail), 1982. Images courtesy their respective galleries.

  • Keith Haring - Untitled, 1988

Untitled

As an artist who emerged from the vibrant dance-club New York scene, Haring often incorporated dancing figures into his work, characters which became an iconic symbol in popular culture. Simplified and outlined, they embodied the pure energy of the movement. Standing below the human figure in Untitled is another recurring motif in Haring’s work – the barking dog. Dancing dogs often referenced artistic performance or breakdancing, but Haring’s dogs also stood for Anubis, the Ancient Egyptian god with a jackals’ head who watches over the dead.

See more info about the work here.

  • Keith Haring - Untitled (October 7, 1982)

Untitled (October 7, 1982)

This work is executed in Keith Haring’s unique graphic style, featuring several recurring motifs in his work such as the radiant heart-love, cartoon-like figures outlined by thick black lines and vibrant lines depicting energy or motion. Two energetic male figures are depicted in motion facing each other. The radiant heart is placed above them, representing homosexual love.

The artist explored this subject more explicitly throughout his career, finding the means of affirming his pride in being gay. In spite of homophobia and oppression, he fully incorporated his homosexuality as one of the indissoluble facets of his art, triggering a huge movement in which artists no longer held back from positively expressing their homosexuality in their art. The original drawing was done on a 15 square foot white tarp in black and red acrylic.

See more info about the work here.

  • Keith Haring - Lucky Strike, 1987

Lucky Strike

In addition to his personal work, Haring also produced a range of commissioned ones in his distinct cartoonish style. In 1987, the cigarette company Lucky Strike commissioned him to design a series of advertisements for the brand. Out of nine he created, the company selected five to be printed as limited edition silkscreen prints, while three of those were also released as posters. All of these works draw on advertising rhetoric, humorously engaging with the viewer and demonstrating the refreshing effect of Haring’s practice.

To satisfy his friends, the artist created one additional print depicting a smoking skeleton. This didn’t really please the executives at Lucky Strike, as he noted in his journal.

See more info about the work here.

  • Keith Haring - Poster for Nuclear Disarmament, 1982

Poster for Nuclear Disarmament

A social activist from the beginning of his career, Keith Haring raised awareness of a number of pressing issues of the time, including the dangers of nuclear technology. The artist self-published twenty-thousand copies of this poster, stacked them in a handcart and distributed them for free at the largest demonstration to date against nuclear weapons and the arms race which took place in Central Park on June 2nd, 1982. Only a few copies of this original poster now exist.

The work features his recurring motif of Radiant Baby, depicted in a mushroom cloud. The artist once explained that “babies represent the possibility of the future – the understanding of perfection, how perfect we could be.”

There is nothing negative about a baby, ever … The reason that the “baby” has become my logo or signature is that it is the purest and most positive experience of human existence.

See more info about the work here.

  • Keith Haring - USA Celebrates Unicef!, 1988

USA Celebrates Unicef!

From the beginning of the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic became an increasingly present phenomenon, due to which Haring lost many close friends. After being diagnosed with the illness himself in 1988, he founded the Keith Haring Foundation that contributed greatly to raising AIDS awareness and financially supported various programs for fighting the disease. The diagnose hasn’t slowed him down at all. During the last years of his life, he enlisted his imagery to speak about his own illness and generate activism and awareness about AIDS. In the darkest times of the AIDS crisis, these works served as beacons of protest, hope, unity and defiance.

Created the same year the artist had been diagnosed with AIDS, the work USA Celebrates Unicef is now part of UNAIDS’ Art For Aids, an art collection created to recognize the role art has played in the response to AIDS, provoking thought and dialogue around some of the most difficult issues around the illness.

See more info about the work here.

  • Keith Haring - Free South Africa, 1985

Free South Africa

Another issue haring was passionate about was racism, more specifically, apartheid in South Africa. With his work, he joined the international anti-apartheid movement against the oppressive and racially based power of the South African government. In 1987, he wrote in his journal:

Control is evil. All stories of white men’s “expansion” and “colonization” and “domination” are filled with horrific details of the abuse of power and the misuse of people.

Created as a trilogy in 1985, Free South Africa depicts the relationship between the black and white populations in the country during the apartheid. A political response to these conditions, the work depicts the black figure as intentionally larger than the white one to express the way a white minority continued to suppress the majority native black population in a post-colonial era. This is another poster that Haring self-published and distributed around New York in an effort to mobilize support for the cause.

See more info about the work here.