Keith haring’s work was filled with Colourful figures, iconic motifs and social messages. Born in 1958 in Pennsylvania, He was an artist who worked predominantly in New York. He was known for his extensive works responding to then-contemporary social and political issues. His works interacted with a diverse set of audiences, and he worked on making art accessible to all. Keith Haring did most of his work for orphanages, charities, hospitals and daycare children. 

Haring was highly inspired by the works of his contemporaries like Jean Dubuffet, William Burroughs, Brion Gysin and Pierre Alechinsky and other contemporaries. He devoted much of his artwork to represent the hardships of the LGBTQ community, the AIDS epidemic and Drug abuse. He was mainly known for his strong visual imagery, which helped quickly and easily convey the message. Let us take a look at some of his famous artworks,

1. Ignorance is fear

This poster was designed in 1989 on behalf of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), a New York-based AIDS activist group. The poster depicts the public’s ignorance of the AIDS epidemic by referencing the three wise monkeys that see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing to the three humans. The artwork was part of the extensive work Haring has done in promoting public awareness. 

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Ignorance is Fear_©Keith Haring Foundation

2. Crack is wack

The art was designed during The 1980s to serve as a public announcement against the widespread use of illegal Drugs. The main aim of the artwork was to create awareness amongst people about the physiological effects of cocaine. The use of drugs was especially prevalent among the poor and working class of New York during the 1980s, so the poster was an attempt to educate people on the physiological and legal repercussions they would have to face.

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Crack is Wack_©James Leynse

3. Monkey Puzzle

The monkey puzzle was created by Keith haring in his signature neo-expressionism style. It depicts monkeys of various sizes and colours squished together in a zestful way. The artwork predominantly uses a vibrant palette, accentuated by the black background. 

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Monkey Puzzle_©Keith Haring Foundation

4. Free South Africa

The poster is part of the  20,000 posters Keith Haring printed and distributed in New York City to mobilize support against apartheid. The poster aims to tackle social injustice faced by black people, using simple symbolic depictions of the apartheid struggle.

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South Africa_©Keith Haring Foundation

5. Montreux, 1983

The poster was part of the set of 3 posters designed by Keith Haring for the 17th Montreux Jazz festival held in Switzerland. A vibrant, eye-catching piece, commissioned by the festival organizers to promote the festival among music lovers, it depicts a dancer in neo-expressionism style.

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Montreux_©Keith Haring Foundation

6. Pop Shop III

Made between 1987-1990, the poster is part of the pop shop series by Keith haring in promoting the Pop shop he opened in New York. The pop shop was essentially a place for everyone to interact with his artworks. It was meant to continue the conversation that started with his poster, made in his signature style; the show depicts the linear man with bright colours.

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Pop Shop_©Keith Haring Foundation

7. Safe Sex

The poster was made in the year 1980 by Keith Haring. The goal of the sign was to create new awareness around sex and its risks. The artwork moved away from its conventional style as it used more text over graphics to convey its message. Haring used patterns to represent the plights of STDs in this artwork.

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Safe Sex_©Keith Haring Foundation

8. Andy Mouse

This artwork was made as a tribute to Keith Haring’s close aide, Andy Warhol. The painting depicts Andy Warhol as Mickey Mouse, which happened to be the favourite cartoon character of Keith Haring. The caricature of Andy Warhol with the dollar symbol represented capitalist society.

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Andy Warhol_©Keith Haring Foundation

9. Best Buddies

The best buddy’s artwork was one of the last artworks of Keith Haring. It was completed just a few days before he died from an AIDS-related ailment. The figures are very typical of the style used by Keith Haring. The figures are left open to interpretation regarding their race, gender or sexuality.

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Best Buddies_©Keith haring Foundation

10. Marriage of heaven and hell

1984 saw the creation of ‘The marriage of heaven and hell’. An alliance between the two realms of heaven and hell is depicted through abstraction in this painting. Haring, who focused on social activism as a driving force for his career, was at the centre of exploration of sensitive social topics like NYC street life, drug addiction, nuclear weapons, AIDS, etc. This artwork saw Haring move away from his conventional style of using colors in his artwork.

Marriage of Heaven and Hell_©Keith Haring Foundation

Keith Haring, through his works, aimed to induce a sense of social activism and awareness through creative means for the common public. He dedicated his life to spreading awareness on critical issues like AIDS, STDS, etc., which were considered taboo in society. His works focused on significant problems plaguing the world around him and were represented in simple, abstract ways, easily understandable to the public. His works remind us of the plight of commoners and how we must strive to make the world a better place.

References:
  1. Metacult. 2022. Famous Paintings Keith Haring an American social activist – Metacult. [online] Available at: <https://www.theartist.me/art/famous-paintings-by-keith-haring/#The_Marriage_Of_Heaven_And_Hell> [Accessed 6 August 2022].
  2. www.wikiart.org. 2022. Keith Haring – 81 artworks – painting. [online] Available at: <https://www.wikiart.org/en/keith-haring> [Accessed 6 August 2022].
  3. Harrow, L., 2022. The 10 Most Famous Artworks of Keith Haring – niood. [online] niood. Available at: <https://niood.com/the-10-most-famous-artworks-of-keith-haring/> [Accessed 6 August 2022].
Author

An aspiring designer, she believes architecture plays an innate role in adding nuances to the multi faceted world we live in. When not reading, pondering on how design can shape , or be used to influence human behaviour has become her favourite pastime.

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