Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has recently installed a rare sculpture by 1980s graffiti artist Keith Haring on the Museum’s outdoor patio area known as Walker Landing. The sculpture, Two-Headed Figure, 1986, features heads of two of the archetypical figures common to Haring’s bold graphic work—a baby and a barking dog—attached to opposite ends of a jellybean-shaped body. Crafted of aluminum and bright red polyurethane paint, the work enlivens an area frequently used as a lunchtime spot by visiting school groups and families. The acquisition of this work was made possible by Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr.
“Two-Headed Figure is a rarity—a unique outdoor sculpture that retains Haring’s signature cartoon style while blown up to larger-than-life size,” said Crystal Bridges President Don Bacigalupi. “The work features two of his signature creatures, here as dual heads on a singular body, leaning over their respective shoulders to engage one another in dialogue. It’s pure delight and whimsy with an invitation to join the conversation.”
Haring began his career as a graffiti artist, crafting simple images of people and animals in chalk on the black paper covering empty advertisement panels in the New York City Subway—sometimes making as many as 40 drawings in a day. His generalized and faceless figures left interpretation of his drawings open to the viewer, but the life-affirming and whimsical nature of the work attracted a wide audience. In addition to playful pups and dancing figures, Haring dealt with difficult subjects as well, including the devastating effects of the AIDS epidemic, as well as questions of political and scientific incursions into the lives of private individuals. He was devoted to the idea of public art, and created numerous murals and other public works for charitable organizations around the world. He also taught children’s drawing workshops, and opened the Pop Shop in 1986, making low-cost versions of his very own artwork available to a wide range of people.
Haring was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988. The following year, he established the Keith Haring Foundation, to provide images and funding for AIDS-related organizations and children’s institutions. He died in 1990 at the age of 31. Despite his all-too-brief career, Keith Haring’s work continues to be popular and easily recognizable around the world. On April 19, 2013, a new exhibition of 250 of his early works, Keith Haring: the Political Line, opened at the Musee d’Art Moderne in Paris. His work is included in the collection of museums internationally, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Centre Pompidou Paris; the Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro; and Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Geneva.
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