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Keith Haring: The Blueprint Drawings
Originally conceived as unique works on paper — Sumi ink on vellum — Haring’s initial idea was to transform the raw form into exactly that, a blueprint. He displayed the series in a one-week exhibition in Manhattan. Not a single drawing was sold during the exhibition, however, he found success with the sale of several blueprint copies.
In 1990, one month prior to his death, Haring revisited the drawings creating a portfolio of 17 screenprints of these very images, marking the last cohesive project of his career.
Keith Haring’s ‘real’ education in artistic expression began on the streets of New York City. Famously, the gritty subway system provided an inspiration board for Haring, and he began tagging the city’s canvas with his message.
His admiration for graffiti artists was clear and with reason. His rationale: it’s an easily readable subject in a technically difficult medium, which he deemed comparable to printmaking as a highly technical process. This was his way of merging his personal symbols together with a unique visual language, thus breaking down the barriers between high and low art.
The Blueprint Drawings, like most of his creations, were left untitled, leaving the viewer’s interpretation unbiased. Haring wanted to provoke an honest yet visceral response to his work.
Keith Haring (1958-1990) Untitled, from The Blueprint Drawings, signed, dated and dedicated 'FOR GIL' in pencil, screenprint on Arches Cover paper. Executed in 1990. 42 1/2 x 79 in. (108 x 201 cm.).
As irreverent as Haring’s images are, the messages conveyed by the artist are meant to confront the viewer head-on. There are references to sex, racism, religion, and AIDS — which he eventually succumbed to in 1990. Haring said: 'I do use a little moral discretion between what I put on the street and what I put on the subway. The things in the studio obviously have much more sex. But I think it’s inevitable that the subway drawings have it too because it’s part of my life and part of the rest of the body of work.'
Haring was unafraid to use sexual imagery and connotations in his creations — notably bringing AIDS to the forefront of society’s attention. He responded to the sometimes grim realities of an urban environment by creating celebratory art about life. Haring’s The Blueprint Drawings serve as an early visual history in the life of an artist whose message managed to transcend far beyond his imaginable reach, and this messaging still resonates today.
Browse and bid on prints in our online auction, Keith Haring: The Blueprint Drawings, now through September 29, 2015.
Main Image: Keith Haring (1958-1990) Untitled, from The Blueprint Drawings, signed, dated and dedicated 'FOR GIL' in pencil, screenprint on Arches Cover paper. Executed in 1990. 42 1/2 x 59 in. (108 x 150 cm.)