Keith Haring: 1978-1982, currently on show at the Brooklyn Museum, is the first large-scale exhibition to explore the Pop artist’s early career.
Click images to enlarge.
In 1978, when Keith Haring enrolled in Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts, he began to develop a still-imitated personal visual aesthetic inspired by the architecture of New York City, pre-Columbian and African design, dance music, and the works of artists as diverse as Jean Dubuffet, Pablo Picasso, Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. Other inspirations: media, the subway, clubbing and sex.
The current outstanding and uplifting exhibition (organised by the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio and the Kunsthalle Wien, Austria), traces the development of the artist’s extraordinary visual vocabulary and includes 155 works on paper, seven experimental videos and over 150 archival objects, among them rarely seen sketchbooks, journals, exhibition flyers, posters, subway drawings and documentary photographs. During this period, Haring – who was born in Pennsylvania in 1958 and died of complications from AIDS in 1990 – introduced the figurative drawings that included much of the iconography he was to use for the rest of his life, such as the standing figure, crawling baby, pyramid, dog, flying saucer, radio, nuclear reactor, bird and dolphin — all enhanced with radiating lines suggestive of movement or flows of energy.
Haring also meticulously documented his aesthetic discoveries in his journals through precise notes and illustrations. “Several of Keith’s original journals are in the show and catalogue, but since they are all bound, one can only display a single spread, at most,” says Julia Gruen, the Executive Director of the Keith Haring Foundation, which is posting one image of the journals per day to Tumblr throughout the show’s duration. “Since Keith was avidly keeping a journal during the period covered by the show, it seemed a natural compliment… The journals give the viewer a look inside the mind and thoughts of the artist Keith was becoming, insights into his process, the evolution of his imagery. This is an incredibly intimate way of learning about him. There is a degree of self-reflection that actually diminished with time – as Keith became busier and gained confidence as an artist, as he was more in demand and more active, he spent less time recording his thoughts.”
As Tricia Laughlin Bloom, the Brooklyn Museum’s Project Curator for the exhibition, adds: “Seeing these works in many forms, on both intimate and grand scales, the show allows real intimacy with Haring’s thoughts and formal experiments, documented in his journals and put out into the world through wall-sized works on paper.”
Keith Haring: 1978–1982 is on view at The Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York until 8th July 2012.
Text: Ricky Lee
All images © Keith Haring Foundation. From top: Untitled 1980, Untitled Journal Drawing 1977, Mud Club ID, Untitled, ca. 1980-1985.