As the director of the Keith Haring Foundation, and as Keith's former assistant, I have spent many years curating or helping to curate Keith Haring exhibitions. Because of this and perhaps in spite of this as well, I readily accepted Visual AIDS' invitation to curate a small online installation for their web gallery. Although acquainted with the organization, I had never had the opportunity to explore their archive of works by artists who have died from, or who are living with AIDS.
Featured in this archive are some very distinguished names. However, I opted to select works by less renowned artists, challenging myself to select works viscerally, without the oblique influence of notoriety. Naturally, I was moved by the broad spectrum of experience portrayed by all these artists. In the end, my small selection surprised me. I was drawn primarily to those works whose meaning was occasionally obscured; works which masqueraded as 'pretty'. Was this quality analogous with the experience of living with the disease in our fearful society?
A curator's concern is not only with the individual works, but also with how they will cohere. I believe that what links the works are their totemic potency, their pathos and their subtle evocation of rite and superstition. Occasionally benign on the surface, upon deeper scrutiny the works are all equally passionate and often disturbing. It is each artist's willingness to expose his or her experience that compels us to pay attention.
Julia Gruen, Executive Director of The Keith Haring Foundation, began working with the artist in 1984, and has been the director of his foundation since his death in 1990. In this capacity, she oversees all museum and gallery exhibitions, publications, licensing and educational operations. She writes and speaks regularly about the artist and his work. In her role as grant-maker, Ms. Gruen has worked closely with a large number of AIDS organizations and children's charities, among them The Children's Village, GMHC, God's Love We Deliver and The Association to Benefit Children.
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