Early Haring had his own style, but it would have been difficult to put it into words. During this period he was still a silversmith, and his attitude towards money changed after meeting the founder of pop art Andy Warhol. Later, in 1986, a Pop-Shop will be opened in Manhattan selling images of figures, which by that time will be iconic.
The life cycle that Keith Haring, an artist with no recognizable style, did contain everything that would cause only negative emotions in modern Russia. A drug addict and homosexual with AIDS, urging not to hide, not to be silent, to make it all a subject of wide discussion. And also depicting something that would cause cultural shock to any inhabitant. Unexplained dogs who dance, bark, eat, pee, laugh – it’s still nothing, but his paintings can revolve around not some phallic symbols, but the real erected male genitalia. And out of them come traits – black and contrasting with all the beauty in the white world.
It is believed that this is how Keith Haring symbolized AIDS, but it is only partially true. It may as well be said that all the dark images that his late toilet paintings are full of are crying over his own personality and behavior disorder. A rather devout young man from a good family and suddenly dies at the dawn of his life from AIDS, being also an addict. The term used above, related to the toilets, is not accidental. Creativity also spread to their walls. One of the works, called Once Upon A Time, was done in the men’s room of a building in New York City. During the work, the toilet did not close, and all visitors could ask questions to the creator right on the spot.
Kit’s creative style is the absence of any style
So, Keith Haring, whose work almost everyone associates with something familiar, even those who are not so avant-garde, had no style. He painted his experiences, and the work gave him away to curb autism and, quite possibly, psychopathy. Sometimes it is said that he is close to dadaism and neo-dadaism, but who of the avant-garde is far from him? Dadaism is the deliberate destruction of meaning, concept, it has protested, and Keith painted his subconscious at once. Some of his paintings are very much like the ancient Maya and Inca. He knew of their existence, of course, but it’s hardly an imitation. Rather, the ancient painters and Keith were in similar altered states of consciousness.
One of his masterpieces is the discovery of the world of street artists of the famous wall in Bower. Now they create some monumental almost paintings on it. Very beautiful, full of craftsmanship. Boveri Mural Haring was his classic man, faces with three eyes and symbolic images of atoms. However, the impact on viewers all this drug madness was much stronger. Nothing is clear, but every detail goes straight to the heart. Another of the master’s works is a drawing of the Berlin Wall. It’s said to show the Germans’ desire for reunification. It’s obvious and formidable nonsense. If there was any sense in that wall painting, you should translate it into the human language as follows: “People, you are naturally mad if you share your living space with some damn walls”.
The last large-scale wall painting was a mural on the wall of the Church of San Antonio in Italian Pisa. It’s all depicted in iridescent tones. But we’ve already met the artist’s inner world. We are not confused by the fact that Pisa Mural seems to symbolize harmony in the world. We understand his soul. He painted Hell, the real Hell of the World, but he painted it in bright and life-affirming tones. Apparently, the Catholics of Italy appreciated the creations.
In 2018, a 30-year-old work by Haring was discovered on the walls of the former depository of the Amsterdam City Museum. The artist performed a 12 by 20 meter mural in 1986 with the permission of the museum administration.
In 1978, the artist recorded a video in which he drew on the floor to the music of New Wave. His drawing becomes a maze – the scribbles cornered Haring, and the artist becomes part of his own creation. Here and in subsequent works, the artist turns to the archaic beginning of art, when the process of drawing was a magical ritual. “Drawing is, in fact, still the same as it was in prehistoric times. It unites man and the world. It lives through magic,” Haring thought. Like the ancients, he seeks to cover the world with shimmering images as if he were afraid to leave an empty space.
The doodles cornered Haring, and the author becomes part of his own creation.
Haring’s shamanic gift is also that he draws without any sketches, quickly and clearly, as if succumbing to an uncontrollable impulse. At his first gallery exhibition in 1982, the artist filled the space so diligently that he turned the Soho gallery into a total installation. The same happens at the New Year’s party, 1984, captured on video.
Obviously without words
Haring takes over the phenomenon of writing. “I’m interested in the forms of symbols that people choose to create a language. In all forms there is a basic structure that denotes the whole object with a minimum number of lines, it becomes a symbol. It is characteristic of all languages, all peoples, all times,” Haring argued. On the same basis, the artist makes a friendship with the beater writer William Burroughs.
Anticipating the speed with which to process huge amounts of information, Haring concludes that pictographs are the fastest way. And so it is: today the media are gradually moving to visual content, the volume of texts is shrinking, and the number of users of the installation has exceeded a billion.
The apocalypse and the dancing plague
Using pictorial language, Keith Haring creates a narrative. His stories in the form of a comic book tell of terrible cataclysms, but not related to the wrath of the Lord and tricks of the devil, but based on the fears of his generation. The artist interprets the Holy Scripture in a Boschian way, but in a modern way. In his version of the apocalypse the world is threatened with destruction by flying saucers, radiation, idolatry and intolerance towards each other. Keith Haring infinitely varies the symbols of man, child on all fours, dog, atom, snake, pyramid, radiation rays. An active fighter against racism, homophobia, AIDS and “bad” drugs such as crack, Keith warns with his works about possible options for the outcome.
References to Christian iconography are not random. Haring grew up in a devout family, attended Sunday masses and for a time was obsessed with Christianity – later he will call himself Jesus freak. But from the age of 16 Keith began experimenting with the expansion of consciousness and became a hippie, which is not in any way linked with the foundations of a small provincial town. Misunderstood by church and parents, Haring was forced to create his own generation’s Bible, with New York City as its haven and dance as its cult.
New York City in the 1980s is swarming with club life. Musicians from all over America flock there, with punk and new wave, house and hip-hop. Keith Haring quickly joins the underground party. The artist organizes her first exhibition in New York at the iconic Studio 54. Dance culture influences Haring’s drawings: his men are always on the move – break dancing and raging.
Keith meets and collaborates with celebrities – be it Andy Warhol or Grace Jones, Timothy Leary or Yoko Ono, Madonna or Jean-Michel Basquiat. In addition to animation, Haring finds another way to make his drawings move – body art. In 1986, the thrashing horror “Vamp” is released, which became the prototype of the film “From Sunset to Dawn” by Robert Rodriguez. In it, the pop and gay icon of 80 Grace Jones, all painted, performs striptease – a fascinating tribal and emancipatory.
His men are always on the move – break dancing and raving.
Pop Art goes out on the street
Street culture is a phenomenon in big cities, where all kinds of discourses, prince, and beggar meet in the street. The street is the most suitable showcase for pop art, understandable and simple, and therefore beloved by many.
Keith Haring says that he was motivated by Basquiat to do graffiti: “I started doing graffiti two years after moving to New York. Jean-Michel Basquiat was my main inspiration. For a year I had no idea who Jean-Michel was, but I knew his work”.
Haring starts painting with chalk on black posters in the subway that are empty without advertising. Often all kinds of people gather around the artist and he decides to give them badges with his drawings in order to create a connection between strangers. Just as the medieval inhabitant was helped to believe by icon saints, Haring’s dancing men became the conductors of religious knowledge in an alienated metropolis and helped the inhabitant feel involved.
The street is the most appropriate showcase for pop art.
In 1986, Haring opens Pop Shop. He believes that art should not be elitist, so the poster or T-shirt of his authorship can be bought by anyone.
Outdoor gay, Keith never depicts eroticism in public spaces, as he is very sensitive to children. Even after gaining world fame, Haring dedicates his work to the service of society, especially the marginalized sections of the community – the AIDS and LGBT communities. He paints schools, kindergartens, and hospitals, often with children.
He believes that art should not be elitist, so anyone can buy a poster or T-shirt with his authorship.
In 1987, Haring was diagnosed with AIDS. Before that, Keith had lost many loved ones to the silence of the epidemic. His work “Ignorance = fear, silence = death” is about the plague of the 20th century, about homophobia and silence. In 1989, he founded the AIDS Foundation, which still exists today. In the same year, Haring creates his latest work, leaving it especially unfinished. The labyrinth breaks off and meets the white canvas, an eternity before which Haring has to fold his brush.
Keith died in 1990, at the age of 31. Almost immediately after Keith Haring found out he was sick, he began trying to actively help people affected by AIDS. It was both informing and appealing to the community, and actively participating in organizing various charity events. A year before he died, he created a foundation in his own name, investing a large sum in it. The goal of the fund is to help AIDS patients and various children’s organizations, it continues its work even nowadays. However, there was very little mercantilism in it. He still remains a good guy in his heart.