Ludo Keith Haring
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Ludo is a series of five striking lithograph prints by Keith Haring created in 1985. The series is made up of figural images depicted in the Pop artist’s iconic linear style and frenzied lines. Each print is set against a plain white backdrop, and a frenzy of red lines fill the dark outlines of the figures across the series, working to produce abstract and ambiguous images.
The Ludo series is reminiscent of Aztec or Aboriginal art through Haring’s use of flowing, organic shapes and thick bold lines to create a pattern that plays out across the image surface. Explaining why many of his works resemble Aztec or Aboriginal art, Haring has said “My drawings don’t try to imitate life; they try to create life, to invent life,” something that he believed aligned with so-called primitive ideas. The Ludo series is exemplary of this notion by forming a rhythmic, kinetic set of compositions that focus on pattern rather than realism.
Throughout the Ludo series, Haring maintains a dominance of the colour red, depicting eyes, limbs, and other body parts in abstracted forms. There is a sense of anxiety running through each print that differs from much of his earlier work, alluding to a turning point in Haring’s life. Reminiscent of Haring’s Apocalypse series from 1988, this series provides the viewer with a hellish visual narrative showing eyes, limbs and other body parts in abstracted forms. Depicted in bold lines, gestural marks and bright red colour, the Ludo series brings together a set of dynamic images that evoke a sense of chaos and violence. Indeed, this series marks a moment of transition for Haring. As the AIDS epidemic overtook his community in the mid-1980s, Haring’s artwork reflected his increasing involvement in advocacy for the disease.
Why is Ludo important?
Haring utilises many of his idiosyncratic visual language and symbols in the Ludo series. Notably, Ludo 3 shows a cross on the central figure’s chest and its head is depicted with a hole through the centre. Throughout his oeuvre, Haring has used these motifs in the context of figurative works such as his Pop Shop Quad series (1987) or Growing series (1988). Marked and porous figures are used to symbolise homosexuality, death and the emptiness felt by many during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.
The Ludo series is indicative of the way in which Haring conveys complex ideas whilst maintaining a simplicity in line and form that appeals to a wide audience. In his use of simplified form and recognisable symbols throughout his work, Haring produces a true public art that communicates clear-cut narrative views on socio-political injustices of the time. Just as his good friend Jean-Michel Basquiat had done before him, Haring used his unique graffiti style to erode boundaries between the public and the world of high art.
By the time of his death, Haring had produced so many prints that the exact number has become impossible to count. There are many unsigned editions on the market, though these tend only to be considered valuable if approved by the Keith Haring Foundation. Today his prints are frequently among the most sought after multiples on the market.
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