Although he was brought up as a Christian, in his adult life Keith Haring altered his beliefs and challenged orthodoxy in all its forms. In the 1980s, when televangelism was gaining in popularity, and Christian groups in the USA were increasingly vocal in their prejudice and condemnation of homosexuality, Haring’s works challenged the viewer to consider the role of the church in their current climate. Religion as a form of control was a particular concern for Haring, as this piece makes clear: a figure clutching a cross behind their back impales another with a stick (a symbol Haring employed to denote control), on a red cross background with the words USA 1981 written below.
Date of work
Keith Haring (1958 – 1990) was an American artist, and one of the leading figures of the graffiti art movement which emerged from New York in the 1980s. Haring rose to International acclaim after creating spontaneous chalk drawings on blank advertising spaces in New York subway stations. His work reflected a profound commitment to social justice and activism, raising issues that remain relevant today, including the AIDS crisis, racism, and environmental degradation. He was a champion for public access to art in his lifetime, and established the Keith Haring Foundation in 1989, which provides funding and imagery to charities working with AIDS and youth programmes, and brings his work to a wider audience.