Flowers Keith Haring
Find out more about Keith Haring’s ‘Flowers’ series, browse prints & editions for sale & view the works wanted by active buyers right now.
Completed only months before his tragic death in 1990, Keith Haring’s Flowers series is a vibrant set of prints rendered in his distinct pop-graffiti style. Across the five prints Haring depicts a variety of fluid, phallic shapes to represent plant forms and growth but with a visceral, painterly quality that is not always present in his work.
The visceral style that characterises the Flowers series is heavily inspired by figures like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning from the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1940s and 50s. The screen print ink has been allowed to drip down the image, forming thin, brightly coloured streaks and splatters that stand out against the bold, dark outlines. The influence of Haring’s good friend Jean-Michel Basquiat also comes through in this series. Haring uses his distinct graffiti style to create a truly public art, just as Basquiat had done before him, that merges high art with popular culture.
The latter part of Haring’s career was characterised by the HIV/AIDS epidemic that devastated the gay community in 1980s New York and deeply affected Haring following his own AIDS diagnosis in 1988. The expressionist quality of his Flowers series is representative of the way in which Haring worked rapidly to produce as much artwork as possible in the last years of his life. Indeed, artist Karey Maurice when looking back on his intimate friendship with Haring once said that ‘he showed me through sickness you still have to work and produce and give to the world what you intended to do.’ Not only does the artist’s use of fluid line and gestural marks convey a sense of urgency in this series but it also works to express Haring’s bodily suffering felt from the effects of the virus.
Why is Flowers important?
In choosing the subject of flowers for this work, Haring subverts the traditional art historical still life subject to represent nature’s ephemerality and the fragility of life. Upon closer inspection, the unusual flower-like forms resemble phalluses, thus making clear the closeness to death felt by those living with HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and how this was tied up in notions of sexuality. Haring further emphasises this expression of otherness through his use of saturated pastel colours, providing the prints with an otherworldly quality as well as using coloured dots to denote the otherness of homosexuality and illness.
A defining characteristic of Haring’s body of work is the way in which he toes the line between a playful visual language and dark subject matter. His Flowers series mimics the uplifting style of children’s drawings but exemplifies a character that is entirely adult in tone. In Flowers I, Haring depicts a scene of a figure plucking flowers on a sunny day in a vibrant pastel colour palette which at first glance seems to have a childlike light-hearted character. It then becomes clear however, that the flower being cut in half is explicitly phallic in shape and so works to conjure up ideas surrounding the end of life and castration. This juxtaposition between a positive visual language and more troubling and complex underlying messages is what makes Haring’s work so unique and long-lasting.
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