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To celebrate the 25 years since the founding of the Keith Haring Foundation, Pace Prints in New York and the de Young Museum in San Francisco have mounted concurrent exhibitions of Haring’s work. Pace has partnered with the foundation to present a number of limited-edition black-and-white prints that highlight the artist’s energy and line, in addition to two videos of the artist at work. Whitewall spoke to Pace Prints director and curator Rachel Gladfelter about the artist’s process and influences.
WHITEWALL: This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Keith Haring Foundation; would you say that this show is a celebration or print retrospective of sorts?
RACHEL GLADFELTER: The Keith Haring exhibition at Pace Prints is a celebration of Haring’s work and philanthropic legacy. By setting up the Keith Haring Foundation shortly after being diagnosed with AIDS, Haring ensured that his art would live on and continue to benefit education, research and care initiatives. We curated 10 very special prints from the last nine years of his life for this show, which runs concurrent with the expansive retrospective at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.
WW: Both this show and the de Young exhibition make Haring’s line a central focus, can you discuss the significance of his line, and how that comes through in these prints?
RG: The origin story of Keith’s line is vast and varied. It was an innate quality of his work and yet he was influenced by everything from the animated lines of Disney cartoons to the dripped fluid line of Pierre Alechinsky, pre-Columbian primitive works to Japanese calligraphy. He used line as a tool for communication and universal connection, blending image and word to create a language through semiotics.
In Dog (1986) Haring outlined his signature dog, and with a touch of horror vacui, populated the dog with images of television sets, babies, angels, devils, slavery and sex. He filled it with humanity. These compositions touch on activism, love, life, death, politics, and everything else that was happening in the world around him.
WW: What kind of video documentation does the show feature, and why did you feel it was important to include this alongside the prints?
RG: I wanted to show the two videos Painting Himself into a Corner and Circle Play, because they give a glimpse into what it might have been like to witness Haring at work. It is mesmerizing to see the pace at which he worked. The line poured out of him and he never erased. This fluid mode of working informed all of his paintings, drawings, and prints. In the same viewing room, we have photographs of Keith working on lithography stones. In these he is creating the plates that would end up being his Stones portfolio; five gorgeous, rhythmic black-and-white lithographs, which are prominently featured in the exhibition.
WW: Did you make the prints for the show in the pace studios? How does creating prints with an artist’s estate or foundation differ from production with a living artist?
RG: We don’t actually create prints with the estate. Pace Prints is the Keith Haring Foundation’s representative for editions and small-scale multiples. We work in collaboration to exhibit the limited edition works that Keith created during his lifetime. It is such a wonderful experience working with the Keith Haring Foundation, showing artworks that have rarely been seen and knowing that all sales benefit educational and health-related not-for-profits.