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Keith Haring's Dog 1985 prints demonstrate his ability to express complex social issues in simple, graceful shapes. Haring’s most famous icon, his dog, has a bark that calls attention to social struggle, here, the topical anxieties of 1980s New York—the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Cold War, and the crack epidemic.

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Meaning & Analysis

A unique set of compositions, depicted in his trademark visual language, Dog shows one of Haring’s most iconic symbols, the barking dog. Showing one of Haring’s most iconic symbols, the barking dog, this series exemplifies the artist’s talent in conveying complex moral messages through succinct symbols and simplified figures.

Across the series each composition remains the same, differing only in colour and with Dog (yellow)and Dog (black) presented as semi-sculptural screen prints on plywood. Encompassed within the shape of Haring’s human-like standing dog figure is a chaotic scene of stick figures, televisions, dogs, humanoids and deformed animals, providing the viewer with a glimpse of Hell. The figures are shown devouring, having sex with and clambering on top of one another, with a devil-like figure spreading its wings at the top of the image. This dizzying frenzy of pictograms speaks to Haring’s feelings surrounding the socio-political events that characterised 1980s New York like the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Cold War and crack epidemic.

10 Facts About Keith Haring's Dog

Barking Dog (white) by Keith Haring

Barking Dog (white) © Keith Haring 1990

1. Haring's Dog symbolises the abuser of authority and power.

Haring's Barking Dog, with its mouth gaping open, represents the artist's suspicion of socio-political authority. Delineated with a continuous angular line, Haring's Dog is loaded with a sense of urgency and encourages viewers to be cautious of the establishment. Quite unlike the dog, Haring promotes disobedience to corrupt systems of power.

Dog by Keith Haring

Dog © Keith Haring 1985

2. The standing dog is reminiscent of Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Throughout his artistic career, Haring attempted to create so-called 'modern hieroglyphics' that could be easily read by a wide-reaching audience. Haring's Dog was perhaps inspired by the Ancient Egyptian Anubis, the god of death, regeneration, and the afterlife, who also took the form of a dog. His 1985 Dog depicts a standing canine, filled with a hellish composition of death, sex, and violence, subverting the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph to mirror the turmoil of the 1980s and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Barking Dog by Keith Haring

Barking Dog © Keith Haring 1990

3. The Barking Dog is one of Haring's most iconic motifs.

Alongside Radiant Baby and Three Eyed Monster, Haring's Barking Dog is one of the artist's most repeated and recognisable motifs. Haring first conceptualised his Barking Dog in his early Subway Drawings, and from here it developed into a quintessentially Haring image.

Untitled (Dogs With Ufos) by Keith Haring

Untitled (Dogs With Ufos) © Keith Haring 1982