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Bad
Boys

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Critical Review

A set of 5 explicit screen prints, Haring’s Bad Boys series is sexually charged and celebratory of male homosexuality. Across the series, Haring maintains a specific frenzied, linear style forming a particularly striking example of the Pop artist’s ability to create complex images while maintaining the simplicity of line he is known for.

In this series, Haring depicts a variety of male figures in a highly energetic and expressive style. This emphasis on expression obscures their form to the point of ambiguity. The viewer is unable to distinguish between pattern and figure. At a time when homophobia was felt vividly in 1980s New York, this sense of ambiguity in line may have been deliberate. The frenzied lines also highlight the passion of the subject matter, charging each print with a sense of emotion.

Writing of Keith Haring in the catalogue for the artist’s retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1997, David Ross states that “His use of simplified figurative abstract forms and his highly graphic style gave his works an immediate character, the complexity of his puzzlelike constructions pulled the viewer deeply into a unique picture space. Haring’s art radiated energy and he carefully directed that energy beyond the confines of the art world.” This is evident in the Bad Boys series, a set of prints in black and white that recall Haring’s Subway Drawings from the early 1980s. His early drawings – executed in white chalk on the black paper panels put up before a new advertisement was pasted in place in the New York subway system –earned him both notoriety and acclaim. Harking back to earlier work like the subway drawings, this series emphasises Haring’s keen interest in maintaining an immediacy in his work even in this later stage of his artistic career.