Keith Haring was called “the Michelangelo of the New York City subway,” after five years of adorning train cars with his earliest signature chalk drawings alternately regarded as graffiti or pop art.
His bold, vivid lines and colors came to symbolize his enduring themes of life and unity. Fulfilling Haring’s desire to make his work widely accessible, his two original Pop Shop boutiques — one on Lafayette Street in New York’s Soho neighborhood, founded in 1986 (back when Soho was the hub of NYC’s art world) and another in Tokyo — sold volumes of his designs and memorabilia including floor-to-ceiling murals.
Haring opened the stores “to continue the same sort of communication as with the subway drawings. I wanted to attract the same wide range of people and I wanted it to be a place where, yes, not only collectors could come, but also kids from the Bronx … this was still an art statement.”
The new Pace Prints exhibition focuses on works created between 1983 and 1990 and highlights printmaking, which was an essential part of Haring’s work; as the gallery press materials state, “He believed in the inherent democracy of creating limited editions that could extend the reach of his imagery in an attainable and affordable manner.”
Over a ten-year period, Haring created more than 60 distinct editions on paper using lithograph, silk-screen, etching, embossing and aquatint. He also worked in small-scale multiples in aluminum, wood, concrete and terracotta.
In addition to artwork will be pieces from two of the Keith Haring Foundation’s recent collaborations: Keith Haring by Nicholas Kirkwood, haute couture footwear by the shooting-star British shoe designer; and Keith Haring by Patricia Field, apparel and accessories designed by the celebrated New York stylist and fashion designer, famed for her work on HBO’s Sex and the City.
The year before he died of AIDS-related illness in 1990 at age 31, Haring painted his last major public work on the rear wall of the convent of the Church of Sant’Antonio in Pisa, the (fading) mural “Tuttomondo”, and produced six animated shorts for Sesame Street, which aired a year after his death.
“My contribution to the world is my ability to draw,” Haring famously said. “Drawing is still basically the same as it has been since prehistoric times. It brings together man and the world. It lives through magic.”