Untitled Self-Portrait, 1985
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Untitled Flying Saucer, 1981
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A Pile of Crowns for JMB, 1988
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Silence Death, 1988
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Andy Mouse, 1985
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This month, the de Young hosts the first Bay Area retrospective of '80s New York art prodigy Keith Haring in 20 years. If that's not reason enough to go see the work of one of recent history's most important painters, here are a few more.
1. He's the grandfather of the street art movement.
“It’s no coincidence that Shepard Fairey wrote the introduction to Haring’s journals when they were published a few years ago,” says curator Julian Cox. “Haring wanted his art to reach as many people as possible. He’s an artist who was so ready and ripe for social media when it wasn’t known by that name.”
2. He lets you draw your own conclusions.
The majority of Haring’s works are untitled. “He was adamant that viewers should bring their own frame of reference to it,” says Cox. “His thousands of chalk drawings in the New York subway gave voice to prevailing cultural and political issues that he felt people should not necessarily be confronted by, but deal with. There was never an armchair position for him when it came to what he channeled his creative energy into.”
3. No matter how dark the subject matter, there’s always hope.
“Haring was extremely passionate and truly an activist, but it’s not a doom-and-gloom scenario,” explains Cox. “The work is full of edginess and anger, but you never get a depressive feeling when you look at Haring’s work. Rather, you see jubilation. He was so passionate and serious about the issues he cared about. He was really trying to make a mark. As you look through the lens of history, he was successful in that.”
Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco