This signed screen print in colours from 1988 is a limited edition of 90 from Keith Haring’s Apocalypse series. In his print Apocalypse 5, Haring depicts a hellish scene with Christian iconography, juxtaposing collage with his iconic graffiti style.
Haring pushes Christian iconography to its extremes in this print, showing two serpent creatures attacking a phallic Christ figure. A collaged image of Christ forms the head of a phallus in this print that shows snake-like figures, symbolising sin, evil and Satan, attacking the Christ figure. Haring uses his trademark pop-graffiti style to contrast good and evil, as well as to bring ideas of religion and sexuality into the same realm.
Apocalypse 5 appropriates and reworks Christian iconography to reflect the chaos of contemporary life and the imagined horrors of the world’s end. By using religious symbols like the serpent and Christ, Haring gives this print a moralistic charge. To address those who have remained ambivalent to the horrors of contemporary events, most especially the AIDS epidemic, Haring consciously pushes religious imagery to its extremes. By placing the Christ figure in a hell-like scene, Haring invokes utter disdain and profanity to the viewer.
Throughout the Apocalypse series, Haring uses a pictographic style inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphics and bright colours to communicate clear-cut moralistic messages. One of Haring’s most famous pictograms, the barking dog, appears in Apocalypse 5. First appearing in his subway drawings from the early 1980s, the barking dog is used to represent abuses of power by the government and oppressive regimes that demand obedience. This rings true in the context of Haring’s Apocalypse series that creates a pictographic social commentary on the American government’s silence and complicity in the deaths of many thousands of people due to AIDS.