Keith Haring, a New York pop art icon in the ‘80s and ‘90s, is celebrated for his simplistic drawings of humanoid figures in outrageous and comical positions. These bodies are nearly always depicted in a manner which mimics children’s drawings, though they embody a sensibility that is entirely adult. Often experimenting with depictions of queer theory and desire, substance abuse, and other controversial topics, the artist created work that acts as social commentary and simultaneously appeals to the masses. He worked across several mediums throughout his career including acrylic paint, woodcuts, and even more exploratory ones like aluminum; one notable medium is Keith Haring lithographs.
Lithography is a method of printing in which ink is applied to a smoothed stone or metal plate that repels the pigment. It is then placed onto fibrous material, often paper that is manufactured to absorb a great deal of ink without disintegrating or warping. It is a process which dates back to the 18th century that continues to be used by modern and contemporary artists such as Haring. This particular printing process can produce extremely detailed renderings, though the artist used it to his advantage to maintain his signature stylized aesthetic and pilot his trajectory into the classical arts. Keith Haring Lithographs excelled because of its capacity to produce exceptional detail, the artist could produce hundreds of versions of the same image that maintain the crisp edges and opaque sections of color inherent to his work.
Haring found enormous success in the commercial and fine art worlds, though his artistic roots lie in street art. For street artists, unpolished guerilla art-making tactics are necessary and substantially contribute to the aesthetic of graffiti. The artist attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City from 1978 to 1980 where he was able to use more refined resources, such as lithographic tools, to incorporate his graffiti style into more classical mediums. Alongside friends and fellow artists Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Haring paved a path for low, public art to be accepted and bona fide in the eyes of critics. His anti-authoritative, non-conformist attitude inherent to street artist culture and his experimentation with traditional printmaking methods such as lithography undoubtedly provided him with the essential tools to advance into the world of fine art.
Keith Haring Lithograph works is supported by his style and radical, sardonic subject matter that is often fueled by queer theory. The outrageous depictions that he creates are reminiscent of the over-the-top sensibility of camp that, at its core, functions as a secret gay language. Keith Haring lithographs perform as a vessel for this language to slink into pop culture and media, subverting conventional themes in commercialized art. His printed works would prove to be exceedingly influential; his figures continue to be used in pop culture iconography today and his influence can be identified in works by contemporary artists like KAWS. Furthermore, today his works are used commercially by companies such as Uniqlo and Adidas and are still major contenders in the art market selling for up to 3 million dollars.