Keith Haring—1980’s New York’s radiant baby, playful pop commentator, punk kid, rap-lite-socialite, political activist, and prolific artist. Through his short, explosive life, his art gathered such exposure that it’s instantly recognizable, on T-shirts, buttons, public works, and yes, tequila bottles.
1800 Tequila’s artist selection taps into the creative, energetic presence of Haring’s work, mixing and remixing motifs, allegories, and stories to create something wild, colorful, and new.
Follow his trajectory from SVA student to art-world superstar. These are10 Keith Haring Pieces You Should Know.
Keith Haring arrived in New York in 1978 as a student at the School of Visual Arts, beginning what would be a storied and dynamic career despite his short life. This sumi ink painting demonstrates the start of his interest in repetitive forms—to be a hallmark of his later paintings—in quick flurries of movement on the surface of the drawing.
If you feel like you’ve seen this face before, it’s because you have! Haring experimented with this image in several iterations, but this face remains the classic depiction, made famous by Elaine Sturtevant’s copy. Haring is known for his motifs, which render his work instantly recognizable.
The repetitive surface patterning that we saw in Haring’s early work is developed in full force in his paintings of the ’80s, featuring elaborate, overlapping lines that fit shapes within shapes. These paintings are some of the most recognizable pieces of work by Keith Haring. However, though formally similar, Haring tweaked the formula—this painting features a central figure, while others were a mix of small figures or abstract forms.
Though deeply immersed in the glitzy club and party scene of ’80s New York, Haring did know his art history. This riff on ancient Greek wine jars (another site of culture Haring happily appropriated) is an example of Haring merging his mark with historical precedent, which he would repeat in later works.
Andy Mouse, 1985
Andy Warhol was one of Haring’s most influential friends, drawing Haring into his star-studded social circle as Haring kept him informed on the freshest youth culture. Haring was known for his birthday parties—guests included Madonna and Boy George. Here, in one of several homages to his friend, he mixes the father of pop with everyone’s favorite Disney mascot, Mickey, birthing Andy Mouse.
Haring’s work grew increasingly complex as the ’80s progressed, especially as he began to experiment with sculpture. However, these large, allover-composition paintings remained a mainstay of his repertoire.
Tree of Life, 1985
Haring often painted allegories about death and commented on religion, but he also celebrated life and love. In this painting, he depicts a tree of life with figures and wavy, wiggling movement lines surrounding them, lending comic-book dynamism to an existing artistic trope.
Mother and Child, 1986
Haring’s forays into metal sculpture yielded a different kind of conversation with his drawings. Rather than making marks across the surface of an existing form, like an elephant or terra cotta pot, Haring sought to bring his drawings to a kind of 3-D realization, lifting them from the flat surface as though they had come to life. This sculpture is an example of Haring’s explorations with such forms, which would eventually grow to dominate his later work.
A Pile of Crowns for Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1988
Along with Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat was a friend of Haring’s—they were all major players in the 1980’s New York art world. After Basquiat’s death at the age of 27 (due to a heroin overdose in 1988), Haring created this work, Pile of Crowns, in remembrance of his friend.
This lithograph features the radiant baby, a favorite motif of Haring’s, and a suitable conclusion to a collection of his work. In his heyday, Haring, who was ever the populist, made pins featuring his radiant baby and gave them to punks and rappers alike, encouraging everyone to participate in his art. Haring made art until the very end of his short, radiant life—let’s hope we all might do the same.
source: complex.com BY LARISSA PHAM