- Curriculum: Art, Art Criticism, Language Arts
- Age/Grade: Elementary 2, Elementary 3, Middle School
- Subject: Analysis and Theory, Drawing, Writing
- Materials: Markers, Pencils
- Institution: The Whitney Museum of American Art
- Location: New York, New York
- Duration: 2 Classes
This program was designed to be a take-home activity for children in conjunction with the exhibition of Keith Haring's work at the Whitney Museum in New York City.
To have children continue to process and understand Keith Haring's work after they leave the Museum.
To cultivate art-making activities and relationships at home with parents and guardians.
142a | Whitney Catalog | Paperback
About the Artist:
Keith Haring, 1958-1990
Keith Haring grew up in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. He was always interested in drawing and art, especially comics like Snoopy and Dr. Seuss. He spent a lot of time drawing with his three younger sisters and his father, who made cartoon characters for him.
From the time he was very young Keith Haring liked to make up secret codes and symbols that no on else could understand. When he moved to New York City, Haring started to draw the same things over and over. He drew babies, TVs, dogs, and flying saucers. He created his own PICTURE LANGUAGE or CODE. This was a way he could tell stories through his art, without using words!
Keith Haring's Picture Language
Here are some of the meanings Keith Haring thought about for his picture signs. Can you think of any others?
The BABY could mean life, energy, and happiness. A FLYING SAUCER could be something out of our control. I t sends down energy rays and "zaps" people.
A DOG could stand for nature. A little dog might be friendly and a big dog might be mean and scary.
Haring loved to dance and listen to music. In New York City's dance clubs, Keith Haring discovered a style of music called hip-hop and a type of street dance called break-dancing. Break dance is a mix of different acrobatic moves like:
Head and body spins
Doing the wave
The electric boogie
How did he make his pictures look like they were moving?
Keith Haring put cartoon lines or energy wave around the people and things that he drew. Music, dancers, their movement and ENERGY all became part of his picture language!
Hip-Hop, Skip and Jump - Do YOU like to Dance?
Do different kinds of music put you in different moods?
How do you feel when you hear your favorite song?
Have you ever danced in front of oa lot of people?
Do you dance in your room where no one can see you?
Make up your own dance move, and give it a crazy name! (Like the Fuzzy Wiggle or the Jackhammer Hop!)
Keith Haring found different places to use his picture language, so everyone could see his art!
In the subways! He drew on black paper with white chalkhe had to work fast! Sometimes he made forty drawings in one day. Think of how many people would pass by these drawings! After a while, people were able to decode his picture language.
On walls! As Keith Haring became famous for his art, he was invited to paint murals, or paintings on walls, all around the world. He often worked with kids on these murals, listening to music while they painted!
In the Pop Shop! Keith Haring opened a store in New York City to sell copies of his art on T-shirts, posters, buttons and postcards. Soon everyone could speak Haring's language!
Sending a message! He created posters that encouraged kids to read and not use drugs. Keith Haring made art for children's organizations, the environment and AIDS awareness programs.
In 1988, Haring found out that he had HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He felt it was important to keep on working even though he was sick. In 1990, Haring died of an AIDS-related illness. But if you lookhis work can still be seen on walls, subways and televisions around New York City!
Making Your Own Secret Language
1. Design a sign or TAG that you could use to represent yourself.
Think of something special about yourself that makes you different from everyone else!
Do your family or friends have a nickname for you?
What is one thing that you do that no one else in your family can do?
What is your favorite thing to do? Running?
Playing sports? Skipping? Jumping? Flying?
Imagine a picture sign that could tell other people about yourself.
Would it be a figure? An animal? A special shape?
Could it be something you have seen before, like Keith Haring's baby?
Or, would it be something wild and crazy that no one has ever used?
2. Invent other signs and practice drawing them.
A sign for what you want to be when you grow up
Signs for your family
Any other sign you can think of!
3. Using your marker and the paper in your bag, practice drawing these signs, especially your own sign, over and over, until making a sign is just like writing your name!
Creating Your Own Secret Treasure Box
In the exhibition, we saw how Keith Haring kept all of his photos, poems, diaries and many other important things! Using your secret signs, create a special place to keep all of your treasures.
1. Unfold the subway map in your bag and look at all the signs and symbols that are already there!
2. Find an old box around the house, like a shoe box.
3. Take off the lid and wrap the box and lid with your subway map, just like a present! (You might need some help from an adult to do this, and some tape and scissors.)
4. With your marker, cover your box with the secret signs you made up. Make sure your own secret sign is there! You can repeat the signs over and over, or make designs with them!
5. Just like Keith Haring saved his special things, you can keep all of your drawings, photos, diaries, poems and secrets inside your secret sign treasure box!
When you are finished, show your family and friends your treasure box! Can your family and friends guess what your signs mean? Ask them what their signs would be!