Brooklyn Museum Looks Back at Keith Haring's Early Career

Return of the crawling baby

Haring's heart was always in the right place. In 1978, he wrote that it was crucial for artists to realize that "the public needs art, and not to make bourgeois art for a few and ignore the masses." This unfeigned belief leads to the most engaging section of the exhibit, a slide show of Haring's white chalk drawings done on the black paper that subway authorities used back then to cover unsold advertising space.

Before the monotony kicked in: Untitled, 1978
Courtesy Keith Haring Foundation
Before the monotony kicked in: Untitled, 1978


'Keith Haring: 1978–1982'
Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway
Through July 8

Haring was often dodging the cops and was sometimes cheered on by passersby as he whipped out these drawings. Amid that underground hurly-burly, his stripped-down icons make perfect sense—the photos document commuters pausing to take in images like an anthropomorphized clock rushing past a barking dog. Haring was competing with posters for Hollywood movies, Broadway shows, and all manner of alluring corporate come-ons, and calibrated his graphics to snag and briefly entrance scurrying eyeballs. In that context, he succeeded masterfully, the charms of his winged mermaids, dancing boomboxes, and radiant babies not yet dissipated under glass on the museum wall.

« Previous Page