Keith Haring's Black Paint Marker Works
Keith Haring was a leader of the 1980s East Village art scene in New York with Jean-Michel Basquiat. Haring developed a unique artistic language to express universal concepts of birth, death, love, sex, and war using a distinct pop-graffiti aesthetic of fluid and bold lines. He devoted himself to creating public art and most famously did so on unused advertising panels in subway stations, which he called his “laboratory” for experimenting with his simple lines. Haring also opened Pop Shop, a retail store in Soho that he painted from wall to wall in his signature style and in which he sold small items that were accessible to a range of audiences. Due to his interest in non-traditional mediums, Haring created artworks in his signature style on tarpaulin, old scrap wood, old doors, and plexiglass, among many other unexpected and repurposed materials.
The present artworks were rendered in black paint marker on clear plexiglass and were created while Haring was in Tokyo, Japan in 1983 for a solo exhibition at Galerie Watari.
Untitled (Mickey) (1983) contains Haring’s iconic image of the radiant "crawling baby" inside a nuclear mushroom cloud. Below is a grinning Mickey Mouse surrounded by dollar signs and within a television that overlays a brick panel road.
Untitled also contains a TV set upon a brick panel road, however Haring’s crawling baby is the central image, flanked by barking dogs, while being beamed up by flying saucers. A winged TV set showcasing an image reminiscent of the iconic MTV logo looms from above.
These images were meant to be powerful renditions of American consumerism and greed, while racing for worldwide Nuclear arms supremacy. The message would resonate all the more for a Japanese audience, which experienced devastating nuclear attacks nearly 40 years prior.
Each work was signed three times – K. Haring 83 in the lower right corner, on the back, K Haring 83 – Galerie Watari – Tokyo Japan with his signature circle and cross, and Keith Haring written in Kanji within the artwork image.
The artwork was purchased directly from Leo Castelli by the original owner, and was passed by inheritance until it was purchased by Heather James Fine Art this year. As was customary, Castelli offered a signed polaroid photo of Haring with the artwork to the original purchaser.
With Basquiat, Haring’s subway and street drawings have set the tone and opened the door for the street art movement of today. His legacy lives on in the Keith Haring Foundation, and in the many exhibitions and retrospectives on his career shown in museums and galleries around the world.