New York, 1018 Madison Avenue
Van de Weghe displays paintings by Keith Haring (1958-1990), an artist whose bold, graphic line, vivid color, and exuberant imagery is instantly recognizable. Haring’s work celebrates human existence while confronting weighty themes including violence, power, and the dehumanizing effect of technology. Haring tragically died of AIDS in 1990.
Haring moved from Kutztown, PA to New York to study painting at the School of Visual Arts in 1978. In New York, he found inspiration in the expanding field of art at the time: installation, performance, graffiti art and video in non-conventional or alternative venues like the East Village Club 57 and Mudd Club. In 1980, while at SVA, Haring began making his famous Subway Drawings: techno-primitive Pop imagery in white chalk on black paper pasted alongside paid advertising on platforms. This way of working shaped Haring’s practice going forward: the act of drawing was a performance of sorts for an audience of passers-by, done quickly and decisively due to the risk of arrest.
Haring began using traditional canvas circa 1985 and the works on the view date from 1985- 1987. Haring had an abiding interest in art history, admiring the work of Pierre Alechinsky, Stuart Davis, Jean Dubuffet and Jackson Pollock. He was interested in the basic structures of art that he felt are universal and timeless. Haring’s iconic depiction of the figure, hieroglyph-like, is a prime example of this, representative of both the individual and the whole of humanity. In Untitled, 1986 a sizzling platter of these figures is hoisted overhead by a larger central figure emblazoned with an enigmatic red “X.” Haring taps into the legacy of symbols and archetypes that lie in the collective unconscious. Untitled (Knokke #3), 1987, was made during the artist’s time in Belgium when he was invited by Roger Nellens to paint a mural at the Knokke Casino. The figure is a kind of sea creature with both human and mythical characteristics; its features seem to slide around its face as it lowers a fish into its mouth from above.
Also on view is Keith and Julia, 1986, a self-portrait of the artist with Julia Gruen, his trusted studio assistant and friend. This painting is stylistically distinct. There is a sense of intimacy between the two figures, sculptural amalgams of shapes painted in black lines on a yellow ground; organic areas of color float around, behind, and between them. Prior to his death, Haring asked Julia Gruen to run the Keith Haring Foundation, which she continues to do to this day.
Haring had a populist approach to image making, creating myriad public murals, projects for causes that he cared about, and collaborating with figures in music, art, fashion and dance during his decade-long career. His work bridges high and low, and blurs the boundaries between fine art, social activism and popular culture.
on view through May 22, 2019.