OOSI Sculpture

Acrobats

1996 / Keith Haring / Cleveland

Acrobats2017a.jpg

Near the end of his short life, Haring brought a number of his famous figures into the third dimension. This piece was finished 4 years before his death, based on an idea he had after his first exhibition of free standing steel sculptures in 1985. Acrobats is a multiple, meaning multiple orders have been made by the Keith Haring foundation in several dimensions. In Acrobats, Haring makes brilliant use of opposing pairs. He uses only two, complimentary colors; two vertical, perpendicular planes; and two contrasting poses to create movement, tension, and this overarching sense of “endangered balance”. In expertly deciding what the figures have in common and what sets them apart, he asks the viewer what these figure’s relationship is. He forces the viewer to face the tension of two people who have to work closely together to stay safe; a theme that fits like a glove into his oeuvre of work dedicated to promoting safe sex.

Haring was an artist from a very young age. He grew up drawing cartoons with his father, and, through his young adulthood, developed his characteristic style of bold lines, simple, active figures, and vivid colors. He became famous for his chalk drawings on the empty subway ads all over New York City. Haring talked about how he loved that, before they started getting stolen and turning up on the art markets, no one ever messed with his chalk drawings. He credited it to the fact that they were so delicate and fragile. “It gave them this sort of other power. It was this chalk-white fragile thing in the middle of all this power, and tension, and violence that the subway was.” Interestingly, his sculpture organically developed to reflect these early chalk drawings. After his first major sculpture exhibition, which took place in a park, Haring noticed that kids were playing on his sculptures. He acknowledged that “painted, the sculptures look like bright toys that should be played with,” so he had the edges rounded, so nobody hurt themselves. The newly dulled edges smoothed out the visual (and physical) impact of the sculpture and likened them more to the bold, pure lines in his chalk drawings. Now, more than ever before, his sculptural work became a perfect extension of his illustrations. The smooth, bold lines on the edges of the steel seem like they jumped right off one of his canvases. His famous characters, commonly seen adorning the walls of buildings and the ads on the subway, now stand here as real as a passing student. Haring loved his sculptures because they gave so much more to the people who saw them. If a drawing could change the world, a sculpture could turn the world on its head. To use his own words from an interview in 1998:

“A painting, to a degree, is still an illusion of a material. But once you cut this thing out of steel and put it up, it is a real thing, I mean it could kill you. If it falls, it will kill you. It has a kind of power that a painting doesn’t have. You can’t burn it. It could survive a nuclear blast, probably. It has this permanent, real feeling that will exist much, much, much longer than I will ever exist, so it’s a kind of immortality. All of it I guess, to a degree, is like that. All of the things that you make are a kind of immortality.”

Mortality. A concept Haring was all too familiar with. He was an openly gay man at the peak of the AIDS epidemic. He said himself in an interview from 1989, “… [E]veryone was just wild. And I was major into experimenting. If I didn’t get it, no one would. So I knew. It was just a matter of time.” He had a sick gut feeling for years that he had caught the bug, but it wasn’t until 1987 that he was tested and the results confirmed his fears. Haring, a young artist who was actively shaping the world around him, who could see the people wearing the buttons and t-shirts from his Pop Shop, who could hear the discussions about the themes in his work, was now faced with an hourglass; all that would be over soon. But from the point of his diagnosis onward, Haring’s art began to tell a beautiful story of birth and life, instead of mongering on the fear of an impending death. “[W]hen you are getting to the end of the story, you have to start pointing all the things toward one thing. That’s the point that I’m at now, not knowing where it stops but knowing how important it is to do it now,” he told Rolling Stone in 1989.

Haring felt liberated knowing that his death was upon him. It put him at the end of the story. “Everything I do now is a chance to put a – a crown on the whole thing” he said. In his short career, Haring carved himself a comfortable notch in American Art History, and we are truly fortunate to be able to represent him and his ideas here at CWRU.

County

: Cuyahoga

Citation

: Keith Haring, “Acrobats,” Ohio Outdoor Sculpture Inventory, accessed December 13, 2017, http://oosi.sculpturecenter.org/items/show/1336.

Dublin Core

Title

Acrobats

Description

Near the end of his short life, Haring brought a number of his famous figures into the third dimension. This piece was finished 4 years before his death, based on an idea he had after his first exhibition of free standing steel sculptures in 1985. Acrobats is a multiple, meaning multiple orders have been made by the Keith Haring foundation in several dimensions. In Acrobats, Haring makes brilliant use of opposing pairs. He uses only two, complimentary colors; two vertical, perpendicular planes; and two contrasting poses to create movement, tension, and this overarching sense of “endangered balance”. In expertly deciding what the figures have in common and what sets them apart, he asks the viewer what these figure’s relationship is. He forces the viewer to face the tension of two people who have to work closely together to stay safe; a theme that fits like a glove into his oeuvre of work dedicated to promoting safe sex.

Haring was an artist from a very young age. He grew up drawing cartoons with his father, and, through his young adulthood, developed his characteristic style of bold lines, simple, active figures, and vivid colors. He became famous for his chalk drawings on the empty subway ads all over New York City. Haring talked about how he loved that, before they started getting stolen and turning up on the art markets, no one ever messed with his chalk drawings. He credited it to the fact that they were so delicate and fragile. “It gave them this sort of other power. It was this chalk-white fragile thing in the middle of all this power, and tension, and violence that the subway was.” Interestingly, his sculpture organically developed to reflect these early chalk drawings. After his first major sculpture exhibition, which took place in a park, Haring noticed that kids were playing on his sculptures. He acknowledged that “painted, the sculptures look like bright toys that should be played with,” so he had the edges rounded, so nobody hurt themselves. The newly dulled edges smoothed out the visual (and physical) impact of the sculpture and likened them more to the bold, pure lines in his chalk drawings. Now, more than ever before, his sculptural work became a perfect extension of his illustrations. The smooth, bold lines on the edges of the steel seem like they jumped right off one of his canvases. His famous characters, commonly seen adorning the walls of buildings and the ads on the subway, now stand here as real as a passing student. Haring loved his sculptures because they gave so much more to the people who saw them. If a drawing could change the world, a sculpture could turn the world on its head. To use his own words from an interview in 1998:

“A painting, to a degree, is still an illusion of a material. But once you cut this thing out of steel and put it up, it is a real thing, I mean it could kill you. If it falls, it will kill you. It has a kind of power that a painting doesn’t have. You can’t burn it. It could survive a nuclear blast, probably. It has this permanent, real feeling that will exist much, much, much longer than I will ever exist, so it’s a kind of immortality. All of it I guess, to a degree, is like that. All of the things that you make are a kind of immortality.”

Mortality. A concept Haring was all too familiar with. He was an openly gay man at the peak of the AIDS epidemic. He said himself in an interview from 1989, “… [E]veryone was just wild. And I was major into experimenting. If I didn’t get it, no one would. So I knew. It was just a matter of time.” He had a sick gut feeling for years that he had caught the bug, but it wasn’t until 1987 that he was tested and the results confirmed his fears. Haring, a young artist who was actively shaping the world around him, who could see the people wearing the buttons and t-shirts from his Pop Shop, who could hear the discussions about the themes in his work, was now faced with an hourglass; all that would be over soon. But from the point of his diagnosis onward, Haring’s art began to tell a beautiful story of birth and life, instead of mongering on the fear of an impending death. “[W]hen you are getting to the end of the story, you have to start pointing all the things toward one thing. That’s the point that I’m at now, not knowing where it stops but knowing how important it is to do it now,” he told Rolling Stone in 1989.

Haring felt liberated knowing that his death was upon him. It put him at the end of the story. “Everything I do now is a chance to put a – a crown on the whole thing” he said. In his short career, Haring carved himself a comfortable notch in American Art History, and we are truly fortunate to be able to represent him and his ideas here at CWRU.

Creator

Date

1996

Sculpture Item Type Metadata

Location City

Location County