Gladstone Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of works on paper by Keith Haring, most of which have not been shown since they were created in the late 1980s. Made for his iconic Pop Shop, the series of drawings in this show served as the underlying artwork for prints and other Pop Shop merchandise. Depicting a variety of forms and figures in the artist’s signature style, these black and white compositions demonstrate Haring’s career-long exploration of the medium of drawing and his astute ability to create a unique version of reality using a distinct visual language.
Haring’s drawing practice first gained widespread attention through his iconic subway artworks that began to appear throughout New York City’s transit stations in the early 1980s, but he also created a number of intimately sized drawings in his studio that were equally significant to the evolution of his career. Haring’s process involved an almost automatic form of artmaking, creating series of drawings or collages on paper with sumi ink or gouache. The visual language and many of the motifs from these drawings were also used in Haring’s Pop Shop, which he opened in Soho in 1986. Many of the figures repeated throughout his drawings were also displayed in a variety of forms at this downtown boutique on the walls and on the accoutrements for sale. Haring’s impeccable aptitude for precision and confident approach to artmaking resulted in a mesmerizing array of compositions. Often confined by a bold, black rectangular frame, the figures in Haring’s drawings appear to push against these predetermined boundaries, highlighting his ability to constantly think outside the parameters of art to include a broader audience.
The drawings on view in the show include both familiar and lesser known motifs: human figures in space, barking dogs, swimming dolphins, scissors, industrial machines, and angels. These equally sized compositions offer a diverse selection of narratives and characters that demonstrate Haring’s ability to address complex, socially-engaged, and timely themes such as sexuality, religion, economics, and technology. On Haring’s drawing practice, art historian David Galloway notes, “[His drawings] constitute an oeuvre of immense skill, authority, and diversity, incorporating all of the familiar Haring pictographs and themes, but also introducing aspects of form and content considerably less familiar to viewers."(1) These two-dimensional works demonstrate Haring’s career-long curiosity for experimentation and constant return to the medium of drawing to continually push the limits of what he was able to create and imagine.
A catalogue with an essay by writer Brad Gooch about the historical significance of Haring’s Pop Shop and drawing practice will accompany the exhibition.
Keith Haring was born on May 4, 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania and died at the age of thirty-one of AIDS-related illnesses in New York City in 1990. Since his death, his work has been the subject of major solo exhibitions around the world, most recently at the Albertina Museum, Vienna. From 2013 through 2015, Haring was the subject of an international touring exhibition, “Keith Haring: The Political Line,” which traveled to the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; the de Young Museum, San Francisco; and the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich. In 1994, the Castello di Rivoli hosted a major solo exhibition of Haring’s work, and in 1997, the Whitney Museum of American Art staged a retrospective of Haring’s work that traveled internationally. In 2012, “Keith Haring: 1978-1982”, co-organized in 2010 by the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati and the Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, traveled to the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Haring’s work is in major private and public collections, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago; The Bass Museum, Miami; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Ludwig Museum, Cologne; and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. This June, Tate Liverpool will host the artist’s first major solo exhibition in the United Kingdom, on view through November 2019.
(1)David Galloway, “Drawing the Line: The Graphic Legacy of Keith Haring,” Keith Haring: All-Over, 2009.