Keith Haring: The Political Line

Keith Haring

Paris really does have a hell of a lot going for it. Breathtaking architecture, delicious food, handsome men, A-MAZING shopping and last but certainly not least, cultural happenings to convert even the most committed of philistines. One such cultural happening is the Keith Haring exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne.

Keith Haring

Whether or not you’ve heard of Keith Haring, you will have definitely seen his work. The American artist’s oh-so-distinctive style – all bold lines, vivid hues and figures that appear to be leaping off the surface – still adorns many a public space, not to mention a seemingly endless array of popular merchandise encompassing everything from t-shirts to homeware and mouse mats. But while I, like the rest of the world, had seen God-knows-how many Haring reproductions, nothing compares to getting up close and personal with 220 of the real things.

Keith Haring

The experience of walking through room after room of eye-popping, dizzyingly animated Keith Haring creations is incredible enough merely in terms of visual spectacle. However, as the name suggests, that’s not really the point of this exhibition. Living in 1980s New York, Haring responded both to his adopted home and the world at large, giving his work an intensely political dimension. He campaigned endlessly against for equality, freedom and the power of the individual, with the lasting ambition to create truly public art carrying social messages. His iconic “subway sketches” led on to the artist etching his powerful designs on billboards, murals, buildings and even the Berlin Wall. The exhibition explores Haring’s support of social and political issues with a thematic arrangement leading you from his early works rebelling against the the state, through his revolts against capitalism, mass media, racism, ecocide, nuclear threat and apocalypse before poignantly finishing with his last works looking at sex, AIDS and death. For me, this layout was the perfect way to understand more about the life and work of Keith Haring.

Keith Haring

The arrestingly graphic quality of his work, intricate detail and never ending imagination involved in every piece made for fascinating viewing as did the way in which Haring seamlessly adapted his aesthetic to every imaginable media. Even more fascinating was the close relationship between Keith Haring’s work, and his political conscience. Where the message behind some contemporary art is murky, his is clear to see and, as I learned from the handy information panels, directly corresponded with what he was doing to support these causes. As you probably know, Haring died from AIDS in 1990 at just 32. This, along with the unpleasant realities Keith Haring still makes us face, makes for an exhibition that is both awe inspiring and impossibly tragic.

Love Ella. X

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