Keith Haring’s Ignorance = Fear: political activism

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Political activism pulsed through Keith Haring’s bright, brief career. He made posters and marched for nuclear disarmament and against apartheid. Meanwhile, alongside the signature dogs and babies, themes of religious oppression versus sexual freedom frequently animated this East Village prodigy’s singular cartoons. And it was the Aids crisis that sharpened his work’s focus in his final years.

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This iconic 1989 poster is typically punchy, with its three figures covering their eyes, ears and mouth, and its memorable slogan. Haring had a gift for images with a direct impact. Here, the stakes had been raised by the American government’s shamefully inadequate response, failing to expand awareness of the crisis.

True colours …

The poster simplifies coded imagery from a painting of the same year, Silence = Death. In its companion piece, the pink triangle, an LGBT symbol created by the artist-activists’ collective Gran Fury who also came up with the slogan, provides a backdrop to a complicated latticework of Haring’s wilfully blind, deaf and dumb figures.

Keith Haring, Tate Liverpool, to 10 November


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