Keith Haring: The Political Line

Originally published in the Marina Times San Francisco in December 2014

“Art is for everybody” -Keith Haring

Beginning November 8, 2014 through February 16, 2015, the DeYoung presents California’s first Keith Haring exhibit in over two decades. Over 170 works focusing on themes relating to social justice and political concerns shed light on a particular aspect of Haring’s personality and all-too-short life and career.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1958, Haring moved to New York City to study painting. Here he became known for his public art, a distinctive graffiti inspired style developed in the 80’s in the subways and streets of his adopted city–mazelike hard-edged lines delineate human figures, barking dogs, spaceships and symbols in whimsical, vibrant colors that created an immediately recognizable style and defined his singular creative vision.

Keith Haring’s images incite and illuminate, with no small amount of humor, his concerns about nuclear proliferation, capitalism, inequality and related issues pertaining to race, class, and sex. Diagnosed with AIDS in 1988, he was a safe-sex promoter who became an early advocate of HIV and AIDS awareness. In his Silence=Death series, figures are shown covering their eyes, mouths and ears. Haring chose to make his diagnosis public knowledge and integrated it into his art instead of concealing his condition. This experience lead to paintings that explored topics of birth, life and transformation. In 1989, he founded the Keith Haring Foundation, a non-profit that supports children’s education and AIDS and HIV prevention and care.

The Political Line is based on guest curator Dieter Buchhart’s exhibition which was presented at the Musee d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris in the summer of 2013. Buchhart worked with the de Young in collaboration with Julian Cox, the founding curator of photography and chief administrative curator at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Murals, paintings and archival material including diaries and sketches enhance the personal, intimate mood of the exhibition. Keith Haring contributed to the visual culture of San Francisco by creating public art in the form of murals and outdoor sculptures including his triptych altarpiece “The Life of Christ” which is installed in the AIDS Chapel at Grace Cathedral.

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