Keith Haring: the Alphabet

Posted on March 19, 2018


Keith Haring
The Alphabet
16 March – 24 June 2018

The Albertina Museum in Vienna (Austria) is devoting an exhibition to Keith Haring (1958–1990), who would have celebrated his 60th birthday in 2018. This presentation is intended to shed light on the output of this exceptional American artist from perspectives both art-historical and formal. A special focus will be on the one-of-a-kind symbolic language that is present throughout Haring’s oeuvre as an artistic alphabet of sorts. The artist’s subway works and other drawings, as well as his paintings and sculptures, are devoted to themes of social justice and constant transformation. The appeal of Haring’s oeuvre remains unbroken to this day, and his influence on his contemporaries and younger generations of artists has been enormous.

Keith Haring’s drawings, paintings, and sculptures embody messages that take a stand against the violence of ruling elites, against the oppression of minorities, against prejudice, and against barbarism. His themes thus repe
atedly revolve around justice and change. His notion of art is an egalitarian one: Keith Haring’s oeuvre draws on the creative principles of graffiti as well as on semiotics and the art-historical canon.With his deceptively simple stick
figures embodying deliberately primitive codes, he is part of that process by which low art is transformed into high art, such as with the cartoons and advertisements that found their way into museums via the Pop Art movement. Haring never conceived of art as propaganda, yet he did make use of similar mechanisms as well as public space in order to disseminate his art and his ideas.

He championed the individual, standing up to the oppression emanating from dictatorship, racism, capitalism, and drug addiction. He fought to end Apartheid in South Africa, and his dedication to the struggle against AIDS is legendary. He was also among those voices that, during the 1980s, uttered the loudest warnings about the perils of nuclear war, environmental destruction, and countless other threats to humanity and our planet.

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