Keith Haring: The Subway Drawings


In 1980, Haring noticed that New York City subway’s blank advertising spaces were covered with black matte paper when advertising subscriptions expired. He immediately purchased some chalk and started drawing. Over the next five years, this became a daily, repetitive obsession: he would ride the subway, look for these empty spaces of black paper, draw quickly—without any preparation — and then leave on the next train. Through incessant repetition, Haring’s subway drawings allowed him toperfect his highly recognizable reduced linear vocabulary, and to create an inventory of images. Simplification was practical: he needed to complete his drawings as fast as possible to avoid being arrested. He created characters, such as the barking dog and the radiating baby, which he drew on flat planes with no spatial depth, often with only

a horizon line or a staircase to suggest space. Drawn close to the surface like cartoons, his images had immediacy and impact and could carry multiple meanings through various combinations.