Pop Art Politics Favorite 



Mar 15 2018

It's this symbolism and the characters that repeatedly appear in Haring's work that provide the backbone of an exhibition opening March 16, 2018 at the Albertina Museum in Vienna. On view through June 24, 2018, "Keith Haring. The Alphabet," comprises 100 of the artist's works, from subway art and drawings to sculptures and paintings. The selection focuses on pieces from his oeuvre that deal with social justice issues and transformation, two common threads that run through most of his body of work.

Just two years into his life in New York, Haring had made a name for himself within the lively art and pop culture scene. He considered graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat a close friend. A fashion collaboration with Grace Jones led to Haring painting a unique work on her body. He befriended Andy Warhol, and arrived at Madonna and Sean Penn's wedding in 1985 with the Pop artist on his arm.

Heavily influenced by the trends on the streets of New York, Haring's repertoire referenced unique moments in pop culture. His crudely drawn response to Mickey Mouse, often seen in his work as a criticism of capitalism and mass consumerism, was dubbed Andy Mouse in homage to Warhol.

Perhaps most memorable of his figures were the yellow-colored outlines of people in movement, their arms and legs turned outward or raised to the sky in what looks like break dancing. These dancing characters appear over and over again in drawings, as do variations on a spiky-headed dog, a symbol that some considered Haring's street tag, or signature.

Always interested in social activism, Haring turned a critical eye to subjects that were on everyone's minds in the 1980s: apartheid in South Africa, the Cold War and the military-industrial complex, HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ rights. Although his drawings included no words to reflect his political beliefs, the symbolism Haring employed made transparent his feelings about the subjects: dollar signs representing the greed of the go-go decade or mushroom clouds reflecting the artist's feelings toward nuclear disarmament. These overtly political statements helped the artist garner invitations to create work in cities across Europe, including a mural on the Berlin Wall.

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