Of particular note is that this painting was deliberately left unfinished by the artist. A political commentary on the indifference with which the federal government was handling the AIDS epidemic at the time, the painting is left as unfinished as the countless lives that were taken by the disease. Haring died months later at the age of 31.
He continues to be an iconic figure in the LGBTQ+ gay rights community and is remembered by many as a symbol of late 80s / early 90s Nickelodeon aesthetic.
Keith Haring painting a mural on
Houston Street and Bowery in Manhattan, 1982.
This was Keith’s first major outdoor mural. It became an instant downtown landmark after Keith painted it in the summer of 1982. The mural was up for only a few months in the summer of 1982 before it was painted out but its image remains imprinted in the memory of many people who were part of the downtown artist community in the early 1980s.
In 2008 the Keith Haring Foundation, Goldman Properties and Deitch Projects recreated the mural using the extensive photographic documentation of the original work. The work was unveiled on May 4, 2008 the day that would have been Keith Haring’s 50th Birthday .
Keith’s former collaborater, graffiti artist Anel Oritz (LA II) contributed by tagging the wall and filling in the negative space with an intricate black interlocking pattern.
Keith Haring creating street art in Japan. Photos by Juan Rivera, 1988.
“The context of where you do something is going to have an effect. The subway drawings were, as much as they were drawings, performances. It was where I learned how to draw in public. You draw in front of people. For me it was a whole sort of philosophical and sociological experiment. When I drew, I drew in the daytime, which meant there were always people watching. There were always confrontations, whether it was with people that were interested in looking at it, or people that wanted to tell you you shouldn’t be drawing there…”
“I was learning, watching people’s reactions and interactions with the drawings and with me and looking at it as a phenomenon. Having this incredible feedback from people, which is one of the main things that kept me going so long, was the participation of the people that were watching me and the kinds of comments and questions and observations that were coming from every range of person you could imagine, from little kids to old ladies, or art historians.” - Keith Haring
(Keith Haring: The Last Interview,” Arts Magazine, September 1990)