How Keith Haring Made Uncomfortable Topics More Digestible Favorite 

Keith Haring is known to be one of the biggest artists raising awareness for HIV and AIDS, considering he had also passed away from HIV. Starting his career covering ads with spray paint and chalk in subway stations in New York City, his work started trending and he became an activist for this cause. During his time of fame, HIV and AIDS was the most apparent disease affecting and killing people, while also coinciding with the start of the LGBTQ+ movements. Haring’s art primarily focused on relationships with figures who look of the same gender, yet are unidentified. Haring’s art was used to raise awareness, spreading that same sex love should be accepted, while also spreading awareness to HIV/AIDS, since he started the Keith Haring Foundation, providing funds for AIDS organizations and children’s programs.

Although his work spans a plethora of topics, we will closely observe three unique pieces, titled. (1) Untitled (1982), (2) Three Lithographs I (1985) , and (3) Mural del Sida (1989).

The first piece is an untitled piece that allows the viewer to interpret in their own manner. It can be assumed that both genders in the painting are of the same sex which demonstrates that being gay is acceptable. There are vibrations coming off of the individuals which displays a psychedelic theme. There are also contrasting colors that outline the figures to make them the focus of the art piece.

The second piece is the first piece of a collective of lithographs from the Three Lithographs series from 1985. What we can observe includes three figures interacting with one another, but what is interesting about this piece is that a figure takes place as the largest figure’s genitals, actively combating the other stand alone figure. There are red marks emphasizing the battle between the main figure’s personified genitals and the third person. What we’ve interpreted the meaning of this piece is that alongside Haring’s inspiration from the HIV/aids movement is that when someone has contracted one of the illnesses, that illness is a separate entity of themselves and doesn’t define the person living with the illness. Those who are living with certain illnesses often face scrutiny from being labeled as a sick person and not a human being.

The third piece is a 30 meter long mural titled Mural del Sida which resides in Barcelona, Spain. The mural was created to spread awareness of HIV and AIDS, including depictions of a large snake, death, and a depiction of the Japanese pictorial called the three wise monkeys. Haring utilized imagery to portray the importance and fatality of AIDS and urged the community that if they came together, they could all stop the AIDS epidemic. The original piece was painted in the neighborhood of El Raval, which is considered to be one of the most dangerous places in Barcelona. Placing the mural in a low-income and at risk community was most likely intentional since these communities are the most vulnerable, yet most ignored.

There is no doubt that Keith Haring left his mark on the world through his art and creativity. He used colorful and animated images alongside catchy slogans to make challenging topics more approachable. Just a year before his death, he began The Keith Haring Foundation. They have made more progress than ever anticipated by protecting and sustaining his art and beliefs. The foundation is dedicated to improving the quality of life, concentrating on supporting organizations that educate and protect individuals with AIDS and HIV, as well as improving education for underprivileged children. This foundation has been assisting others for upwards of 34 years and is set to continue indefinitely. They mainly endorse non-profits for research purposes. For example, the largest endowment by the foundation to date has been for two point five million dollars to the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center to support LGBTQ healthcare nationwide. Overall, Keith Haring has made uncomfortable topics more digestible through his art and foundation.

Works Cited

Ending HIV, Reconciliation Action Plan, 16 Sept. 2016,
Fields, Liz. American Masters, WNET, 19 Nov. 2020,
Fields, Liz. "10 lesser-known facts about Keith Haring.",
Haring, Keith. Dog. 2014, Giphy.
Haring, Keith. Mural Del Sida. 1989, Barcelona.
Haring, Keith. Three Lithographs I. 1985,
Haring, Keith. Untitled. 1982,, History, 14 June 2021,
Keith Haring Foundation, The Keith Haring Foundation,
Visual Aids, Visual Aids,

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