Completed only a few short months before his untimely tragic death in 1990, Keith Haring’s Flower Suite is a wildly vibrant set of prints that are rendered in his recognizably distinct pop-graffiti style. Throughout the set of fives works, Haring illustrates a variety of fluid, phallic shapes to resemble and represent plant forms and their ultimate growth, but with a visceral, painterly quality that is not frequented in his work.
Heavily inspired by his contemporaries Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning from the abstract Expressionist movement of the ‘40s and ‘50s, Haring learned to incorporate the gestural movements into his Flowers suite. While creating works, he would use the screen print ink and would allow them to drip down the image, creating thin, brightly colored streaks and splatters that are visually striking when placed against the dark, bold outlines his works almost all typically have.
Not only was he inspired by the Abstract Expressionists, Haring also seemed to gather influence and inspiration from his good friend Jean-Michel Basquiat in this suite. Having started as a graffiti artist, Haring retained familiarity with his mediums, but looked to Basquiat as he used his his distinct graffiti style to create works that merged high art with popular cultures to create ‘truly public art’, just as Basquiat had prior.
The latter part of Haring’s career was characterized by the HIV/AIDS epidemic that devastated the gay community in 1980s New York and deeply affected Haring following his own AIDS diagnosis in 1988. The expressionist quality of his Flowers suite is representative of the way in which Haring worked rapidly to produce as much artwork as possible in the last years of his life.
Artist Karey Maurice when looking back on his intimate friendship with Haring once said that “he showed me through sickness you still have to work and produce and give to the world what you intended to do.” Not only does the artist’s use of fluid line and gestural marks convey a sense of urgency in this suite but it also works to express Haring’s bodily suffering felt from the effects of the virus.