During his tragically short but prolific artistic career, Keith Haring played a crucial role in his generation’s counterculture, leaving a profound mark on the world of contemporary art. Coming from the vibrant underground scene, Haring became known for his recognizable style of bold lines and bright colors, as well as the unique energy and optimism of his art.
Strongly believing in the emancipatory power of art, Haring devoted his practice to activism, raising awareness of a number of pressing issues of the time, such as AIDS, equality, gay rights, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, racism, apartheid, etc. He expressed his strong views through a unique and symbolic visual language, which reflected the spirit of his times.
The powerful, iconic imagery of this legendary artist now adorns the latest smoking accessories collection launched by Greenlane Holdings, Inc., one of the largest global sellers of premium cannabis accessories, CBD and liquid nicotine products. Beautifully combining pop culture, contemporary art and cannabis lifestyle, The K. Haring Collection features a selection of functional glass art and lifestyle products fit for both collectors and casual cannabis enthusiasts.
The Vibrancy of Keith Haring’s Art
Arriving in New York in 1978, Keith Haring immersed himself in the city’s downtown culture, quickly becoming a fixture in the vibrant club and art scene. He started his career on the walls of the New York subway, drawing in white chalk upon unused advertising panels for five years. As the artist explained, the subway was a laboratory for working out his ideas and experimenting with simple lines but also a means to speak to a diverse audience.
“This was the first time I realized how many people could enjoy art if they were given the chance,” he said. “These were not the people I saw in the museums or in the galleries but a cross-section of humanity that cut across all boundaries.”
Bursting with movement and energy, Haring’s art drew from the club and hip-hop scene of 1980s New York, its vibrant street culture, rawness of Art Brut, but also from the social, cultural and political environment of the era – from the Space Race to Dr. Seuss and the advancement of computer technology.
It was in the subway that he first developed his distinct pop-graffiti aesthetic centered on fluid, bold outlines against a dense rhythmic overspread of imagery of dancing figures, babies, barking dogs, flying saucers and hearts. Out of these simple positive symbols, he built a visual language that spoke of his times. Through accessible imagery, he communicated universal concepts of birth, death, love, sex and war. Haring’s art is a testament to his inexhaustible mind and his remarkable ability to turn images into the most direct conversation.
Art as Liberating Social Activism
From his chalk drawings in city-wide subway stations to his collaborations with the superstars of his day, Haring’s life was based on a belief in the power of people to change the world. And he delivered this optimism in a burst of creative energy.
Strongly believing that art should belong to the community, he often chose to work directly with and within public space. “My paintings themselves are not as important as the interaction between people who see them and the ideas they take with them,” he declared. The physical manifestation of this view of art as a social product was his Pop Shop, a fun boutique where his art became accessible to everyone. Selling affordable merchandise like posters and t-shirts, he sought to communicate his art and its message with as many people as possible.
Compelled to speak for his generation, he used his profile to raise awareness of issues that were affecting his city, his own immediate social circle and the world. He vigorously advocated for the LGBTQ community, and condemned racism, inequity and social injustices; he joined the international anti-apartheid movement against the oppressive and racially based power of the South African government; he addressed drug addiction and the crack cocaine epidemic in New York; he campaigned against the nuclear weapon, producing 20,000 copies of a poster for an anti-nuke rally in 1982 which he freely handed out. These political topics did not just inform his work, but he was actively going out onto the streets, often getting arrested.
Even before he was diagnosed, and especially after, he worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the AIDS crisis and fight against the stigmatization of the gay community. His generosity extended even after his death through the work of the Keith Haring Foundation, set up in 1989 to protect his legacy but also to provide imagery and funding to AIDS and children’s charities worldwide.
The K. Haring Collection
Among Haring’s greatest contributions was bringing art out of the galleries and into public life, changing the way people perceived it. The creators behind The K. Haring Collection similarly hope to help reshape people’s perception of the cannabis industry and legitimize the plant’s role in modern society. The collection carries on the artist’s legacy of breaking boundaries and bringing works of art into everyday lifestyle.
Describing the project as near and dear to her heart, Sasha Kadey, Chief Marketing Officer of Greenlane, explained: “The art world has been instrumental in the advancement of the cannabis industry, and The K. Haring Collection will help our mission to destigmatize and elevate the cannabis experience.”
Both sophisticated and playful, the 10-piece collection features the essentials for an elevated smoking experience: bubblers, rigs, water pipes, tasters, spoon pipes, glass trays and catch-alls that can be utilized as a valet, an ashtray or as décor. All of these are embellished with Haring’s iconic motifs rendered in both vibrant colors and graphic black and white, such as dancing figures, barking dogs, flying saucers, and radiant babies. The collection is completed with eight distinct lighters that feature Haring’s designs, created in collaboration with BIC.
The collection will be available online starting November 25.