Collage cut-out on paper
12 x 9 in.
Signed and dated in ink
About the work:
A leading figure of the American art scene of the eighties, Keith Haring embraced the world of art thanks to his father who was an amateur comics artist. By the time Haring moved to New York in 1978, he had already developed his style of simple outline drawing, inspired by his father, which would continue to be his s
ignature style throughout his career.
In New York City, Haring adopted and contributed to the downtown culture of Manhattan, tagging subway cars or East-Village buildings with Jean-Michel Basquiat along with other artists. While prolific in his street art endeavors, Keith Haring was much more than just a graffiti artist. His drawings, which feature seemingly simplistic, vividly-colored shapes are actually the product of a solid artistic and cultural education.
Haring attended the School of Visual Arts in NYC and in addition to art classes, he also took courses in semiotics. Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation. This discipline had a profound impact on Haring’s works. Haring combined his learnings with his contour drawing style, and created a visual lexicon of icons and symbol-like figures. These images, easily remembered and akin to a signature, became identifiers, characterizing his work.
Having started out capturing the New York City street culture in his art, his icons read like an urban, tribal language. However, as Haring matured, along with the influence of the New York art scene, Haring’s work became more intricate and more social / political. Everything in his works took on meaning.
Aside from the Radiant Baby, Haring’s Dog is his most famous tag. The Dog, is portrayed in many different manners, and as an icon, generally has more than one explicit meaning or symbolism.
This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Keith Haring’s Dog. This work is a collage cut-out on gold foiled paper. It is a unique work inspired by Matisse’s cut-outs. One of the tallest of the giants on whose shoulders Haring set his feet was Matisse, who inspired his combinations of flat tints of color and his decomposition of planes-characteristics. Haring did a number of cut-outs and collages in this manner. This work is signed and dated ’81.
The Barking Dog, for example, can indicate action or suspicion. The Dog as a character, sometimes represented as a standing figure (combined with a human form), represents authoritarian government, abuse of power, police states, and oppressive regimes.
In addition to these two representations, the other dogs in the art of Keith Haring are all anthropomorphic. Certain Dogs are depicted dancing, laughing, DJing, etc. in these personifications, it is almost as though they take on the role of an alter ego of the artist.
Throughout Art History, Dogs have been portrayed in paintings as the personification of fidelity. Dogs also imply loyalty, guidance, protection and love. As a student of semiotics, none of these implications would have been lost on haring and it is not surprising that this would be one of his most-used icons.