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From the Catalogue:
Painted in 1987 at the height of Keith Haring’s tragically short career, Red-Yellow-Blue #16 (Portrait of Adolpho) is an intimate and distinctive portrait of Haring’s last studio assistant, Adolfo Arena. Adolfo was first hired by Haring to work at the Pop Shop on Lafayette Street in the spring of 1986, having recently graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in fashion merchandising and retailing. The following year, Adolfo replaced Haring’s studio assistant and worked with him until the end of his life. Adolfo passionately recalled his studio position: “The way I saw the job was, like, “Keith, you paint and let me do the rest.” That meant I would even be willing to brawl with anyone who wasn’t supposed to be in the studio… I tried keeping myself in tune to what went down at the studio, being alert about things and intuiting what was needed before Keith asked for it. This showed him I was on my toes” (Adolfo Arena, quoted in John Gruen, Keith Haring: The Authorized Biography, New York, 1991, p. 201).
Red-Yellow-Blue #16 (Portrait of Adolpho) belongs to a series of works that Haring executed in 1987, which include large-scale metal masks and paintings limited to a palette of black and primary colors. Exhibited at Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York in 1987, these works pay homage to the primitivist and modernist tradition pioneered by Picasso, Braque and Brancusi that Haring admired. Rendered in Haring’s characteristic confident lines and pared down to its most basic features, Red-Yellow-Blue #16 (Portrait of Adolpho) evokes a unique personality that contrasts with Haring’s more typical iconography of anonymous graphic figures. The layered realist representations create a dynamic composition that celebrates Haring and Adolfo’s friendship.
—Courtesy of Phillips
Signature: signed, titled and dated "RED-YELLOW-BLUE #16 (PORTRAIT OF ADOLPHO) © K. Haring JAN 12 87 ⊕" on the overlap
Private Collection (a gift from the artist)
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Bridging the gap between the art world and the street, Keith Haring rose to prominence in the early 1980s with his graffiti drawings made in the subways and on the sidewalks of New York City. Combining the appeal of cartoons with the raw energy of Art Brut artists like Jean DuBuffet, Haring developed a distinct pop-graffiti aesthetic centered on fluid, bold outlines against a dense, rhythmic overspread of imagery like that of babies, barking dogs, flying saucers, hearts, and Mickey Mouse. In his subway drawings and murals, Haring explored themes of exploitation, subjugation, drug abuse, and rising fears of nuclear holocaust, which became increasingly apocalyptic after his AIDS diagnosis. Alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, and Jenny Holzer, Haring is regarded as a leading figure in New York East Village Art scene in the 1970s and '80s.
American, 1958-1990, Reading, Pennsylvania, based in New York, New York
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