This signed screen print from 1989 is a limited edition of 200 by Keith Haring. This iconic print Silence Equals Death, completed in 1989 just a year after his tragic AIDS diagnosis, was originally produced as a fundraiser for the Outreach Fund for AIDS. Recalling the empty advertising spaces on the subway where Haring produced chalk drawings early on in his career, this print shows a mass of interconnected, line-drawn figures in silver reflective ink over a florescent pink triangle.
Silence Equals Death is a direct reference to and adaptation of the AIDS activist group ACT UP’s poster of the same name, an image that became the defining image of AIDS activism in the 1980s. The central symbol of the pink triangle is an inversion of the badge worn in Nazi concentration camps to identify homosexual men. Appropriated by Gay activist groups throughout the 1980s, it is no wonder that Haring was drawn to this succinct and eye-catching symbol that holds so much moral weight.
The faceless and genderless figures that Haring depicts represent the piles of bodies observed at the liberation of concentration camps and may also allude to the thousands of tragic deaths to AIDS due to government negligence. Haring’s reworks the original ACT UP poster to reference the saying ‘See no evil, Speak no evil, Hear no evil’, with the countless figures that are layered over the triangle shown covering their eyes, mouth and ears with both hands. This motif was used to make criticise the Reagan administration’s refusal to acknowledge and discuss the AIDS crisis.