These exquisite and surprising compositions, some of which are being exhibited for the first time, capture Haring’s invented version of reality that defined his artistic career. Astutely employing popular culture, sexual imagery, and religious iconography, the collages and large-scale paintings on view offer a deeply personal and critically important narrative, while simultaneously providing rare examples of works created during the last years of Haring’s life.
Haring first rose to prominence in New York for his spontaneous, graffiti-inspired drawings that began throughout the city’s subway stations during the early 1980s. The artist’s motive for the subway drawings was not self-promotion or property defacement, but rather his passion for democratic accessibility to his work outside of conventional art spaces. Though many of his creations appeared celebratory and playful, he was a politically active and socially conscious artist, interested in reflecting and responding to the cultural climate in which he was living. As a result, Haring’s works frequently explore complex themes of sexuality, religion, racial inequality, economics, technology, and the AIDS virus. Haring’s canvas, Malcolm X (1988), visually summarizes these overarching themes, with the careful inclusion of imagery and motifs inherent to the artist’s practice. This late work, a commentary on discrimination against African-Americans, reinterprets Haring’s familiar iconography while interjecting elements of popular culture, art history, and religion in a collage-like manner, and articulate his urgency to visually narrate injustices throughout history using various methods of creation.