Keith Haring’s vibrant work will soon decorate the blank, cream-colored walls at Arlington's Museum of Art. From June 21 until Sept. 15, visitors will be able to read Haring's opinions, as told through his art, about things like the environment and health care, in Keith Haring: Against All Odds, which includes more than 50 original works.
Aldo Fritz, AMA’s new executive director, says the artist’s colorful work, which sometimes incorporates pop icons like Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Mickey Mouse, speaks to various social issues across different age groups. With the exhibition, Haring means to tackle subjects such as consumerism, poverty, religious dogma, violence, racism and AIDS.
Fritz draws parallels to fellow Pennsylvanian Andy Warhol, describing Haring as an innovative artist who wanted to expand as an artist, and also dropped out of art school.
“(Haring) wanted to really break the rules,” says Fritz. “What society was telling him may be the wrong thing, he knew it was the right thing.”
Using New York subways as a canvas, Haring created graffiti art, Fritz says, while following an urge to talk about the social situations in play during the 1980s.
“He wanted to express his emotions through his art,” Fritz says, and that Haring got arrested several times.
“(His work) speaks about social problems during his day that are, unfortunately, still relevant today.”
Haring died in 1990 at age 31 of complications related to AIDS. AMA’s former executive director, Chris Hightower, who Fritz says was “looking for innovative artists that can draw and capture the different, changing mindset in the region,” will curate the exhibit.
“Chris, he really took (AMA) into a good direction,” Fritz says, noting that Hightower revamped the museum and brought in big names like Pablo Picasso, Ansel Adams and Salvador Dali, to name a few.
Fritz, who is armed with master’s degrees in urban planning and real estate development, says his goal is to increase museum attendance and create different programs while focusing on children's programs, perhaps even expanding AMA’s summer art program to year-round.
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He says he’s talked with talented parents who didn’t have the opportunity as children to develop their own artistic skills because they had to go to work in another field. For those same parents, to see their child’s work exhibited in an art museum, he says, is remarkable.
“We want to cultivate these artists and lay down a road map,” he says. “Who says you can’t make a living with art?”
AMA also hopes to connect more with UT-Arlington students by creating opportunities to help graduating artists pursue art as a career, Fritz says. In addition, there are discussions to either build a new art museum or renovate the existing building.
“We offer sports,” Fritz says of Arlington. “But we also offer arts.”