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Filled with bright block colours and the artist’s signature graphic style, Haring’s Pop Shop brings together some of his most famous iconography. In 1986, Haring opened the Pop Shop in downtown Manhattan, seeing the boutique primarily as an extension of his work where his art could be accessible to everyone. The Pop Shop series represents some of the works created over those years when the Shop was thriving between 1987 and 1990.
Typical of Haring’s street art style, developed in the early 1980s in the blank advertisement spaces in New York’s subway, these prints are created using thick, black outlines and highly simplified form. These early experiments resulted in a style and iconography for which Haring would become world famous, his barking dog, radiant child and winged angel and devil-like figures instantly recognisable for their originality and playfulness. He would reproduce these figures over and over again, in bright colours reminiscent of advertising, and later, just before his death from AIDS in 1990, in plain white embossings.
The Pop Shop series is indicative of Haring’s desire to create a universal pictorial language that emanates positivity and can be understood by adults and children alike. In using saturated colours, thick outlines and flattened pictorial surface, Haring plays into the visual culture of commercialism and advertisement that characterised 1980s New York. Through enlargement of scale and by establishing his trademark style, Haring brings commercialism into the realm of fine art, fulfilling his populist ideas around creating art for the masses.
Each print in the series shows a strikingly simplistic figure dancing and moving in a way that radiates a joyous energy to the viewer. This is emphasised by Haring’s use of action lines that emanate from the figure’s bodies and the saturated colour palette. The series is both comical and outrageous in its subject matter with figures in fantastical positions, conjoined, springing upwards and depicted with holes in their bodies.
Aimed at kids and collectors alike, the Pop Shops were a place where Haring could sell his art for as little as 50 cents. The store stocked t-shirts, badges and magnets featuring his now ubiquitous designs. Speaking of the importance of opening the shop as opposed to making large canvases to please collectors, Haring said, “I could earn more money if I just painted a few things and jacked up the price. My shop is an extension of what I was doing in the subway stations, breaking down the barriers between high and low art”. After twenty years of selling affordable clothing and gift items all featuring Keith Haring’s trademark icons, in September 2005 the Pop Shop finally closed its doors to the public.
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