Looking back at the beginnings of urban art, an encounter with Keith Haring is inevitable. He was one of the kings of the early street art movement, disseminating his subway drawings all over New York, which has made his art socially engaged right there. He even got acquainted with Thierry Noir and took part in the demystification of the Berlin Wall. Right off the start, the urban art legend constructed a recognizable, schematic pictorial language, which he used in emblematic compositions, conjuring visually strong and conceptually powerful pictures. Even though his style has become a favorite of the design world, it has always been telling a much deeper story, contained in the political thread stretching throughout his brief, but fruitful career. He intentionally drew attention to the marginalized world of homosexuality and the much controversial outbreaks of AIDS on the American continent, promoting equality, anti-racism, and awareness.
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco have announced a comprehensive exhibition by the artist at their de Young chapter, entitled Keith Haring: The Political Line, the first exhibition on the US soil to explore the political context of the artist’s oeuvre, encompassing his mixed media pieces, drawings, paintings and sculptures. Social justice and change for the better emerge here as the prime focus of Haring’s works, arranged in what promises to be an exciting installation.
Being the first great exhibition of Keith Haring on the West Coast in the past twenty years, The Political Line will feature a range of selected works many of which are on loan from the Keith Haring Foundation from New York, accompanied with pieces loaned from various public and private collections, while some of the pieces have not been publicly displayed since the artist’s death. Keith Haring: The Political Line is an exhibition that follows curatorial concept of Dieter Buchhart, he devised for the 2013 show at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville in Paris, whereas at de Young, the idea will be further developed in collaboration with Julian Cox, chief administrative curator of the Museums. Inspired by Haring’s devotion to social change, equality and justice, the first curator made an effort to display the artist’s Utopian side, by selecting pieces that best depict his idealistic statements against racism, dictatorship and capitalism. Delivering the ‘dare to dream’ message throughout the installation, curators supported and emphasized the criticism contained within Haring’s body of work.
An exhibitional narrative will extend over more than 130 artworks of Keith Haring, from large paintings, to sculptures, collages and subway drawings, addressing all the subjects that obsessed and drove him to action, from nuclear disarmament, across social issues, to more personally involved problematics. To portray the depth of Haring’s social consciousness, the show will be complemented with ephemera, artist’s diaries, and other archival documents from his time.
What makes Keith Haring: The Political Line even more interesting is the fact that it will be realized in San Francisco, the city to which the late artist had numerous ties with, from the murals he did for DV8 underground club, or a public sculpture of three dancing figures he did at Third Street and Howard in 1989, to the triptych altarpiece dedicated to Christ from 1990 (the year he died), situated at the AIDS Chapel at Grace Cathedral. Exhibition at de Young museum will open on November 8, 2014, remaining on view through February 16, 2015, reminding of a short, but colossally significant life.