This signed etching from 1989 is a limited edition of 80 from Keith Haring’s The Valley series. The Valley Page 5 marks a distinct shift in Haring’s artistic style, depicted in detail with intricacy and very fine lines, showing an unusual image of a man’s head with his skin seemingly rotting from his skull. The Valley series is a group of etchings that were made in collaboration with beat poet William S. Burroughs.
The ominous texts by Burroughs are printed in red ink alongside each image in the series and complement the energy of Haring’s drawings. The Valley Page 5 has the frenzy of an artist trying to process life and death amidst the AIDS crisis in 1980s New York that infiltrated the LGBT community. Haring’s later works such as The Valley Page 5 have been compared within art historical narratives to the chaotic storytelling of Hieronymus Bosch and the fierce liveliness of his friend and contemporary Jean-Michael Basquiat.
Depicted exclusively in black and white, this print shows a man whose flesh is rotting away, reflecting the Burroughs text that describes a strain of corn that causes the gums, teeth and skin to decay. This gruesome text, alongside Haring’s carefully rendered image are in stark contrast to his earlier drawings of bright, dancing figures, however The Valley series remains a powerful work in the artist’s oeuvre.