Most recognized for his painted and drawn simple, cartoon-like figures, Haring, who died in 1990 at age 31, emerged from the incredibly vibrant NY art scene of the 1980s and became a huge pop art star.
There are obvious connections between his work and hip-hop-inspired graffiti.
His reliance on bold colors and outlined figures transformed his edgy art into mass-produced t-shirts, bags and other ephemera. But the ubiquity of his work doesn’t completely diminish its artistic merit or social impact.
When Haring touched on more overtly politically themes, he commented on everything from the crack epidemic to AIDS awareness and gay and lesbian rights.
Tricia Laughlin Bloom, the show’s curator, explained a bit about the exhibition and Haring’s body of art that’s quintessentially New York in a condensed and edited email conversation with Metro Focus, WNET/Channel 13’s culture and news website:
Q: When he arrived in NYC, Haring was inspired by graffiti art and used the city as his canvas. How do you think the city influenced his art? Are there any of his works that you think are quintessentially New York?
A: Haring absorbed the energy of New York’s downtown night life, new wave music, poetry and performance art into visual symbols, capturing the rhythm of the city, especially in his large-scale drawings — what he described as “body involvement” paintings.
He did not make a distinction between drawing and painting at this stage, the physical performative act of painting and communicating with an audience being more important than the finished product. There are many other ways his work is uniquely about New York, obviously through the subway drawings, also in his collages incorporating New York Post newspaper headlines, and his series “Manhattan Penis Drawings” for Ken Hicks.
He actively collaborated with graffiti artists and acknowledged the influence of unknown artists working in the street, at the same time that he collaborated with dancers, performance artists and other visual artists like Basquiat, Kenny Scharf and LA II.