Haring’s Manhattan Penis Drawings deliberately eschew eroticism in their repetitive, decorative patterning of male genitalia. The works, made in the late ’70s, interestingly foreshadow the political turn Haring’s work would take in response to the AIDS crisis. The sketches shed light on the concerns that preoccupied Haring during his formative years in the city that would so define his artistic practice—namely, the forging of a direct and immediate visual language and the translation of the personal and political into universal experience.
One of the key figures in the New York art world of the 1980s, Keith Haring (1958–1990) created a signature style that blended street art, graffiti, a Pop sensibility, and cartoon elements to unique and memorable effect. With thick black outlines, bright colors, and kinetic figures, his public (and occasionally illegal) interventions, works on canvas, paper and sculptures have become instantly recognizable icons of 20th century visual culture.