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Keith Haring: 1978-1982
The public has a right to art. Art is for everybody
Keith Haring ranks among the most iconic, influential and popular artists in the world. Twenty years after his death, the Contemporary Arts Center and Kunsthalle Wien present a historic exhibition of rarely exhibited early work created during the years immediately following Haring’s move from his native Pennsylvania to New York City. His passionate immersion in New York’s dynamic downtown culture informed, inspired and cemented Haring’s language as an artist, as well as his politics, social conscience and open homosexuality.
This exhibition explores the vibrant and experimental years when Haring first enrolled at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, started a diligent and vigorous studio practice, began making public and political art on the city streets and enjoyed a frenetic social life. Joining an art community outside the institutionalized art system, Haring quickly befriended fellow artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf, as well as many of the most innovative musicians, performance artists and graffiti writers of the period.
Comprised almost exclusively of works on paper and videos-the two media omnipresent in the artist’s oeuvre during this gestational period-the exhibition delves into aspects of the artist’s life and production that have received insufficient attention to date: Haring as a thinker and facilitator, and his work as highly experimental and performative. It traces the development of his visual vocabulary: His influences from Jean Dubuffet, Pierre Alechinsky, Jackson Pollock and Henri Matisse to William Burroughs as well as Dr. Seuss and Walt Disney; his iconographic inventions from the rhythmic, all-over interlocking geometric shapes to comic-inspired, enigmatic narrative storyboards and humor-infused homoerotic tableaux.
The show includes drawings and sketchbooks, videos, flyers, posters, photographs and subway drawings, as well as word collages, texts, and diaries. It offers an impression of the artist’s manifold maturing process and shows Keith Haring as a philosopher and untiring initiator of artistic and political activities; reflecting his collaboration with other artists, his interest in interdisciplinary aesthetic strategies and the pulsating culture of the time.
Keith Haring, born in Reading, Pennsylvania on May 4, 1958, lived and worked in New York, where he died on February 16, 1990 of AIDS related complications.
Curated by Raphaela Platow, Alice & Harris Weston Director and Chief Curator, Contemporary Arts Center.
This groundbreaking exhibition of Keith Haring’s early work is co-organized by the Contemporary Arts Center and Kunsthalle Wien.
Kunsthalle Wien: May 28-September 19, 2010; Opening: Thursday May 27, 2010
Contemporary Arts Center: February 26-September 5, 2011; Opening: Friday February 25, 2011
Joint Initial Release: May 2010