Keith Haring | Fertility: Andipa, London
“A baby is the purest and most positive experience of human existence. Children are the bearers of life in its simplest and most joyous form. Children are colour-blind and still free of all the complications, greed, and hatred that will slowly be instilled in them through life.” Keith Haring
Keith Haring’s Fertility series confronts social taboos in the 1980s head on. The series highlights the horrors of AIDS epidemic ripping through Sub-Saharan Africa, bringing awareness to racial injustice, especially that of the transmission of HIV from mother to child. Simultaneously, the series celebrates fertility, new life, and womanhood, creating a complex and multifaceted narrative within each print.
True to the instantly recognisable style of Keith Haring, the Fertility series is bright, bold, and graphic. The series displayed in this exhibition are made up of a set of five prints, each one bolder than the next. Haring reuses some of his most iconic symbols, such as the crawling radiant baby, UFOs and dancing figures. However, this time the dancing figures are pregnant. The figures’ heads and bellies are surrounded by the recognisably graphic black lines to suggest their movement. Haring has created yet another dynamic and joyous series of dancing figures. Despite the bright colours and energetic figures, there is a much darker undertone to the series. Throughout each print, Haring has used small marks of dots and dashes, covering the bodies of some figures and the environment around them. It is believed that these marks are a reference to those left on the body by the AIDS virus. The virus is left as an overhanging, dark presence on the seemingly otherwise joyous figures below. The virus is alluded to further through the ambiguous, larger than life spotted figure seen in Fertility 4 and 5. Despite this figure acting as a metaphor for the looming presence of HIV/ AIDS, Haring draws an ankh cross onto it, the Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol for ‘life’. This suggests a more hopeful tone. The pregnant women show that even within death there is life.
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