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Apocalypse 4

Apocalypse 4
Signed Print

Keith Haring

Screenprint, 1988
Signed Print Edition of 90
H 97cm x W 97cm

Critical Review

Apocalypse 4 is one of the more unusual prints from Haring’s Apocalypse series featuring a troublesome half-human, half-monster as its central subject. Haring uses collage to embed a 19th century portrait of Saint Fabiola into the print and form the head of this grotesque creature. Fabiola was a nurse and Roman matron who renounced all earthly pleasures to devote her immense wealth to helping the poor and sick. Apocalypse 4 is exemplary of the way Haring appropriates historical imagery and high culture to provoke dialogue on crucial social issues of his lifetime, in this case the 1980s AIDS crisis.

Fabiola is depicted by Haring as a maternal figure with multiple breasts, nursing a misshapen and unsightly baby. It is uncertain as to whether the central figure is attempting to help the sick, those suffering from AIDS related illnesses, or whether she is perpetuating the surrounding chaos. The ‘devil sperm’ motif appears, swimming out of Fabiola’s mouth, thus alluding that she too has been reduced by the disease.

Two of Haring’s most cited works of influence, Dante’s Inferno and Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, come to the forefront in this image. A ravaged cityscape looms over the top of the print and falls down a funnel rendered in thick, dark ink. Hideously deformed beasts populate the scene and a group of human figures in Fabiola’s monstrous hand are being tortured. Dante and Bosch’s works are famous for their moralistic tone and Haring is citing these works, in his distinct cynical approach, to present a dire warning on the perils of sexual joy.